There are no guarantees that any draft pick will pan out, but defensive prospect Seth Jones appeared to be the safest bet in the 2013 NHL Draft.
Evidently the safest bet wasn’t the route the top three teams were interested in, as Jones fell to the Nashville Predators with the fourth pick overall in what was the most shocking revelation of the draft.
How could such a hyped and polished phenom fall so far?
Colorado Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic stated that he intended on taking a forward and lived up to his word as the first-year GM selected center Nathan MacKinnon. From there it was expected that Jones would be taken followed by Jonathan Drouin, who was a linemate of MacKinnon in Halifax in the QMJHL.
However, the shocker of the top five picks was the ascension of center Aleksander Barkov. Dale Tallon and the Florida Panthers took a chance on the 6-foot-3, 205-pound native of Finland. He is the youngest player to ever score a goal for Finland in the World Junior Championships, and his upside appears to be immense. Florida was the second-lowest scoring team in the league, and the lure of Barkov’s offensive game was evidently too much to pass on. He is still a bit of an unknown commodity, and Florida was by far the worst defensive team in the NHL last season, so it was shocking that Barkov went ahead of Jones.
Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman also felt the need to pass on Jones with the third pick, as he selected the playmaking and diminutive Drouin. The idea of Jones and Victor Hedman paired together for the next 10-plus years was a tempting idea and seemed like a perfect fit, but with the recent compliance buyout of Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis not getting any younger, Yzerman pulled the trigger on the St. Louis-style player. The Lightning finished in the bottom five in goals allowed, but replacing Lecavalier and eventually St. Louis was the route Yzerman and company took.
The notion of Jones falling all the way to the fourth pick probably wasn’t a likelihood for the Predators in their draft circle, but it was a welcome sight for Nashville GM David Poile. A season removed from the crippling loss of Ryan Suter to free agency, the Predators saw how hard life was without another minute-munching defenseman that could play in any situation to go along with captain Shea Weber.
Yes, the Predators could have used an offensive talent like Barkov or Drouin. Nashville ranked last in goals scored last season, scoring an anemic 111 goals so an offensive chip would’ve been nice. However, a 6-foot-4, 205-pound defenseman with unlimited potential is hard to come by. The Predators had their most success in franchise history two seasons ago when they were led by Weber, Suter and top-tier goalie Pekka Rinne, so sticking to that blueprint might be best for Nashville’s style of play.
The Predators did invest in offensive help, taking five forwards with their 10 picks. However, the fact that such a highly touted stud defenseman fell to them at the fourth pick has to be considered as a catalyst to turn things around in Nashville after their first sub .500 season since 2002-2003.
The futures of the likes of MacKinnon, Drouin and Barkov all appear to be very bright, but they aren’t overwhelming offensive talents like recent number one picks in John Tavares, Steven Stamkos, Patrick Kane and Taylor Hall. Thus, it appeared that Jones was the consensus best player in the draft, so his slip to the fourth pick is shocking.
It is never fair nor prudent to judge a draft year a day after it was completed. However, if Jones pans out the way it appears he will, the 2013 draft will go down as the day that Seth Jones shockingly fell into the hands of David Poile and the Nashville Predators.
Follow James on Twitter @JT3sticks