With the NHL Draft only three days away, speculation regarding the Florida Panthers and their second overall pick is at an all time high. Just a few weeks ago the top three picks in the draft seemed set in stone. The Avalanche would select defenseman Seth Jones with the first overall pick, the Panthers would select center Nathan MacKinnon at two followed by the Lightning who would select left winger Jonathan Drouin.
The brick that shattered this scenario was thrown by Joe Sakic and the Colorado Avalanche when they announced they would be drafting a forward, most likely MacKinnon, rather than going with the top overall prospect Seth Jones. Sakic even went as far as saying, “I think if we had to do it today, right now, he [MacKinnon] would probably be the guy, yes. But we still have some time.”
So where does that leave the Panthers? Well if the Avalanche are to be believed when they say they want MacKinnon, then Florida will most likely end up drafting Jones with the second overall pick. Prior to the last few weeks, Jones appeared to be the gem of what is considered a very strong draft class. Recently however, Nathan MacKinnon seems to be the guy most teams, including the Panthers, value the most.
Would the Panthers love to draft Jones with the second pick? Absolutely. Would they consider swapping picks with the Avalanche to assure themselves the chance to pick MacKinnon? Well according to Adrian Dater of the Denver Post, the Panthers really want MacKinnon and have in fact talked to the Avalanche about swapping picks. It has been reported that in order to make the deal, the Panthers would have to send the Avalanche Erik Gudbranson in addition to the number two pick.
Personally I think trading up for the top spot and shipping out Gudbranson would be a very bad move. While Gudbranson has developed much slower than many hoped he would, he still has the potential to be a top line defender. By making this trade, Florida would not only lose Gudbranson but would also miss the opportunity to draft Seth Jones another potential number one d-man. Is MacKinnon worth it? Would the Panthers rather have MacKinnon and no Gudbranson or would they rather have Gudbranson andJones? Considering the fact that the Panthers have a much deeper pool of forward prospects than defensive prospects, I do not see the sense in this potential deal.
My theory on this whole situation is that Colorado is targeting and has always been targeting Seth Jones. Their suspiciously public announcement of interest in MacKinnon reeks of deception. Imagine this scenario, The Avalanche know that Florida wants MacKinnon so they leak the news about their plan to take him with the number one pick. The Florida Panthers who desperately want MacKinnon hear about this and panic. Florida trades Erik Gudbranson for the number one pick which they then use to get MacKinnon. The Avalanche pick Seth Jones, the player they wanted all along who also, by the way, has roots in Colorado and add Erik Gudbranson thus solidifying their defensive core for years to come while also duping the Panthers into trading one of their most talented young players.
Its all too perfect but of course this scenario assumes that Colorado is lying about wanting MacKinnon which is complete speculation on my part. This all gets very complicated very quickly and right now we have a lot of questions but not many answers. I think the best course of action is for Florida to sit tight at two. We do not know what Colorado is really going to do with the number one pick and we certainly do not know that Nathan MacKinnon will have a bigger impact than Seth Jones. We absolutely do not know that MacKinnon will have such a huge impact compared to Jones that he, MacKinnon, merits trading away Erik Gudbranson.
What we do know is; with the number two pick in the draft, the Panthers are certain to get a player with potential spilling out of his ears, whoever that player may be. We can also be sure that GM Dale Tallon will be a very busy man over the next few days, so for now we can just sit back and enjoy the drama of what should be a very eventful draft.