Canadian 17-year-old Nathan MacKinnon was the first pick of the NHL draft on Sunday, following in the footsteps of another hockey star from his hometown in Nova Scotia — Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby.
The Colorado Avalanche won the draft lottery for the first time in team history and selected MacKinnon, a solid two-way presence with strong hands and stick-handling and skating skills. He is considered a natural scorer and a superb puck distributor.
He was the first player drafted No. 1 overall out of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League since the Penguins selected Crosby in 2005.
MacKinnon and Crosby are both from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia.
“I love Sid. He’s my favorite player,” MacKinnon said. “I guess he’s still my favorite player. I don’t really know what to say now since I’m going to be in the same league as him. I don’t know if I should dislike him or not.”
The Florida Panthers made center Aleksander Barkov, the top-ranked European skater, the second overall pick.
Barkov, born in Finland to Russian parents, has a strong hockey pedigree — his father, Alexander Barkov, played professionally in Russia, Italy and Finland. His mother, Olga, also played on the Russian national basketball team.
Barkov had surgery on his shoulder in March and may not be fully healthy when NHL training camp starts.
“It was a tough decision, but we needed to be strong up the middle,” Panthers general manager Dale Tallon said. “I like big, strong centermen who are smart playmakers and we went back and forth a few days on this one.”
The Tampa Bay Lightning took Canadian forward Jonathan Drouin with the third overall pick.
The Nashville Predators pounced on defenseman Seth Jones with the fourth pick. Jones, the son of former NBA forward Popeye Jones, was widely considered the top prospect. He was the top player on the NHL Central Scouting’s final list of North American skaters.
Carolina selected Elias Lindholm, who played in Sweden, fifth, and the Calgary Flames followed with Canadian center Sean Monahan with the sixth pick.
After picking first the past three years, the Edmonton Oilers took Canadian defenseman Darnell Nurse with the seventh choice. Nurse is the nephew of former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb.
The Buffalo Sabres took Finnish defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen with the eighth selection.
The New Jersey Devils traded the ninth pick to Vancouver for goaltender Cory Schneider, who is the likely eventual successor to 41-year-old Martin Brodeur in the Devils’ net. Brodeur personally added another backup when he made the announcement that the Devils had also drafted his 18-year-old son, Anthony. The Devils made a late trade for the 208th overall pick and one of the final ones in the seventh round. Brodeur took the microphone and announced Anthony’s name, then waited at the team’s draft table to present his son, also a goaltender, with a jersey.
“I’m trying to create my own name,” Anthony Brodeur said, “not on being Martin Brodeur’s son.”
However, it may be awhile yet before either Schneider or Anthony Brodeur takes over.
Martin Brodeur is signed through the 2013-2014 season and has not said anything about retiring once that deal is done.
The Canucks took Canadian Bo Horvat with the ninth pick and the Dallas Stars selected Russian forward Valeri Nichushkin with the 10th pick.