Memorial Cup runneth over with prospects
The Saskatoon Blades will host this year's edition of the Memorial Cup, and for NHL scouts, there is an extra buzz in the air. The potential top three overall picks -- Nathan MacKinnon, Seth Jones and Jonathan Drouin -- will all be in the tournament, and potentially as many as eight first-round picks will take part. But in what order will those names be called on draft day? This big-stage tournament will help sort that out.
Who wins the tournament is anyone's guess, but scouts will be looking for reasons to move one player ahead of another as final prospect lists get massaged and arranged before the June 30th entry draft in Newark, N.J.
Much of the speculation -- including our own -- centers on the Colorado Avalanche taking Portland Winterhawks defenseman Jones with the first overall pick. His father, Popeye Jones, played for the Denver Nuggets, and Seth grew up watching and admiring the Avs. The 6-foot-3 elite-skating D-man will not be selected for that reason alone, but the temptation may be too great with the franchise in big need of depth at the defense position. That said, he still may have more to prove.
When you own the No. 1 overall pick, you simply cannot miss. If you do, you set back your franchise for years. The Avs' scouts will be scrutinizing every detail in Jones' game up in Saskatoon. And they'll likely be examining their other top options as well. Conveniently, they all seem to be up in Saskatoon.
Here is a look at some of the players who could use the national stage to improve their draft status, noting where they fall in my rankings as well as where Central Scouting (CSS) has them on their final North American rankings.
C Nathan MacKinnon, Halifax (QMJHL)
My List: No. 1 | CSS: No. 2 North American Skaters
There is little doubt that he is going to be selected in the top three, but this Memorial Cup may make it more difficult for Colorado to not select him first overall. All hands will be on deck when Halifax plays Portland and he and Jones go head to head. An elite-skating, offensively gifted center matched against a dynamic skating two way D-man is going to be appointment viewing. The matchup likely means more for MacKinnon, who was knocked for a lackluster showing at the World Junior Championships. A better showing in another pressure-packed setting could improve his standing and help his stock recover to pre-WJC levels.
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