The Stanley Cup Finals have ended and the Chicago Blackhawks won a Game 6 thriller to clinch it all. After what was one of the most exciting games in recent memory for all NHL fans comes something only the basement dwelling teams can truly look forward to- the draft. After a season of suffering the Panthers woes of 2012- 2013 are finally behind them and can now look forward to, as it stands, the second pick in this year’s draft. Here’s all the news surrounding the Cats and the draft, and analyzing what could possibly happen.
It’s no secret the first three teams, probably even the first five teams, are bound to get a player that can make a difference. Seth Jones, Nathan MacKinnon, or Jonathan Drouin could very well go first in the draft, but according to recent news the Colorado Avalanche, who hold the first pick in the draft, have already selected their man. Vice President of Hockey Operations Joe Sakic claimed that with the first pick in the draft the Avalanche will select a forward. Head coach Patrick Roy echoed these sentiments and made an even bigger statement by saying, “It would be tough for us not to take MacKinnon.”
It’s easy to understand why the Avalanche would bypass defenseman Jones. Not only have defensemen taken first not faired well in the past, but it is just too hard for a team to pass on a forward as talented as MacKinnon.
The only problem with this whole scenario is the Panthers really want MacKinnon. Florida Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon and the Panthers’ front office would be thrilled to land Jones, but their desire for MacKinnon is just too strong. So where does this leave the Panthers? Well Sakic and Roy could be bluffing. Most teams don’t reveal who they are going to select, and the Avalanche are really trying to sell the fact that they are drafting MacKinnon. The thought process behind this would be to try to entice the Panthers to trade up. Colorado would still be walking away with a great player at number two and a couple of extra pieces as part of the trade. If the two teams do swap picks then there is no doubt the Panthers would select MacKinnon. If the Cats hold onto the second pick then things could get interesting.
Tallon has already come out and stated that he is looking to draft a player that can make an impact this season. MacKinnon is that player. Jones is a defenseman, and while he would be hard to pass up, defenseman take longer to mature and adjust to the NHL. Drouin is bound to be a great player as well. The only problem with Drouin is that he is undersized and could use a year in the minors to bulk up. That leaves talented forwards Valeri Nichushkin and Aleksander Barkov. These two players, are not as skilled as MacKinnon and Drouin, but make up for it in size. They could make a more seamless transition to the NHL because of this, thus making it a tempting offer for Tallon. Ultimately if the Panthers stick with the second pick and the Avalanche draft MacKinnon, I just don’t see Tallon passing up Jones.
A rumor that has been constant since the season started is the possible departure of Stephen Weiss. Weiss, 30, has spent his entire career in Florida and has stated he’d be happy to continue to play here and see the rebuild through. With Weiss hitting the free agent market on July 5th I think Panther fans have unfortunately seen the last of Weiss in a Panthers jersey. Tallon is willing to keep Weiss around, but not for as much money as other teams seem willing to pay for his services. If Weiss doesn’t strike a deal with the Cats before the draft then I think Tallon will deal him on draft day. The Detroit Red Wings, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Dallas Stars are all teams interested in Weiss. If a trade does occur the Panthers will probably receive a draft pick in exchange.
On draft day I expect the Avalanche to hold onto the first pick and select MacKinnon, therefore leaving Jones for the Panthers. I also expect Weiss to be shipped out of Sunrise. Whatever happens it is bound to be an interesting day.