Late last night, Adrian Dater of the Denver Post posted an article in which Joe Sakic, executive vice-president of the Colorado Avalanche, said the Avs would NOT, in fact be taking Seth Jones with their first overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. Lots of observers have wondered if this is some kind of bluff or posturing on Sakic's part to try to galvanize other teams into action, but Dater believes not. He believes that the Avalanche will take Nathan MacKinnon instead.
This is, naturally, a big deal for Lightning fans in particular. The Florida Panthers are believed by many to be keyed in on offense and willing to pass up the opportunity to get Jones in favor of Nathan MacKinnon or Jonathan Drouin. Donny Rivette made a compelling argument for this approach both at Litter Box Cats and more expansively in a response to a comment made by John Fontana here at Raw Charge. If Jones does fall to number three, will the Lightning take him?
In a strange twist, this is pretty much what happened in the SBNation Mock Draft earlier this month. When it happened, Raw Charge editor John Fontana jumped at the chance to acquire a right handed defenseman with elite potential who can contribute immediately for a defense-starved club.
Almost everyone responding to that mock draft believed that this was a fluke and that there was no realistic possibility that Colorado would pass on Jones. I believe the term "brain cramp" covered most of our sentiments on that point. When John informed us of the results of the that draft, I remarked that I could see no justification for the Lightning passing on Jones if he were available.
Look at it this way: The Lightning have one of the most powerful offenses in the league. They have more forwards in Syracuse ready to make the jump to the NHL than there are spots for them (Brett Connolly, Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Richard Panik). But there are only two defensemen--Mark Barberio and Radko Gudas --who fit that bill. And the Lightning have one of the worst defenses in the league and that's an area that must be worked on for both short- and long-term.
There's no telling, of course, whether an 18-year-old rookie defenseman will make much of a difference in the immediate future. Defensemen take longer to reach their potential than forwards, and the Lightning's blueline is already getting younger with the addition of Radko Gudas and possible addition of Mark Barberio.
Add to that the fact that high-drafted forwards tend to be "less risky" than high drafted defensemen, and you do have some reasonable objections to taking Jones at number 3. [Note that none of these have anything to do with how he looks shirtless or any character implications that one might be oddly inclined to draw from that.]
And I'll just throw one more log on that fire. James Nelson, who writes about prospects for ThePredatorial.com feels that it is possible that Jones makes it all the way to number 4, and ends up in Nashville.
My personal take is that Jones has been a consensus number one draft prospect up until about twelve hours ago. Absent any confirmation that there's some kind of problem with his game or a question about his character based on more than pudgy=lazy, I have to think he's still as highly regarded as he was yesterday afternoon. I feel like as far as risks go, this one is no greater than some of the others that Steve Yzerman has taken in previous drafts (goalie at #19, anyone?)
My guess is that the Lightning take him if they get the chance.