All week long, the Colorado Avalanche kept everybody guessing as to who they’d pick first overall at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
On Sunday, the guessing was over.
Colorado selected Nathan MacKinnon with the No. 1 pick, making the Halifax forward the first overall selection from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League since Sidney Crosby in 2005.
MacKinnon, 17, dominated the Quebec league last season before leading Halifax to its first-ever Memorial Cup this year.
The high-scoring center notched 13 points in four games, scored a hat-trick in the final against WHL Portland, and was selected as the tournament’s Most Valuable Player and named to the All-Star Team.
As mentioned, the pick was a bit of crapshoot heading into Sunday. Colorado had sent a number of mixed signals about their plans for the pick, as new head coach Patrick Roy and president Joe Sakic seemed to be throwing up smokescreens.
They publicly cooled on the idea of taking Seth Jones — the Portland defenseman ranked No. 1 by NHL Central Scouting — and also opened up the possibility of trading the pick.
But in the end, MacKinnon proved too special to pass up.
In addition to the Crosby connection from the QMJHL, MacKinnon is also from the same town as Crosby — Coal Harbour, Nova Scotia — and has drawn many comparisons to No. 87 in terms of playing style and scoring ability.
Roy was quite familiar with MacKinnon’s scoring exploits from their time together in Quebec. The new Avs bench boss had previous been behind the bench of the Quebec Remparts, who were knocked out of the 2011-12 QMHJL playoffs by MacKinnon and the Mooseheads.
Will Artem Panarin‘s overwhelming success in the KHL translate to North America? The 23-year-old forward has a lot to prove, but his first big test was a success.
Playing on a line with Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov, Panarin made his preseason debut in Chicago’s finale on Saturday. He registered two assists while giving his teammates reason to be optimistic about him.
“For not being on the ice he looks really relaxed. He’s great with the puck, has nice moves and I think we’ll see a lot of this,” Marian Hossa told CSN Chicago. “He has unbelievable skill. People here in Chicago are going to have a good time watching this guy dangling.”
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was impressed by Panarin as well and liked that line as a whole.
The fact that the trio seemed to hit it off quickly has to come as a relief after an upper-body injury prevented Panarin from getting the most out of this year’s training camp. At the end of the day though, the fact that he was able to at least get in one preseason contest is a big silver lining. How smoothly his adjustment goes from here is still a big X-factor, but at least now he’s going into the regular season with a better idea of what to expect.
Panarin is attempting to establish himself in the NHL after leading the KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg to a championship last year. He was the team’s scoring leader, topping ex-NHL star Ilya Kovalchuk.
There was stiff competition for the backup goaltending job in Boston, but with a signing this afternoon, it seems likely that the matter has been resolved.
The Boston Bruins announced that Jonas Gustavsson has agreed to a one-year, $700,000 deal. It’s a one-way contract, according to the Boston Globe’s Amalie Benjamin.
That contract is still small enough that the Bruins could bury it in the minors if they so desire, but it does set him apart from his last competitor for the goalie position, Jeremy Smith, who has a two-way deal. The fact that Boston went this route seems to imply that Gustavsson will serve as Tuukka Rask‘s understudy, although both netminders attended Sunday’s practice.
In Smith, the Bruins would be getting a 26-year-old goaltender who was dominant with the AHL’s Providence Bruins last season, but has no NHL experience. By contrast Gustavsson, 30, has played in almost 150 NHL games.
Boston sent Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban to the minors last week, but an argument could be made that either one of them is worthy of the backup job. However, both of them have a lot of potential and it’s not surprising that the Bruins felt they were better served by staying in the minors where they can play regularly and focus on honing their game.