Panthers lose top pick to Avs; Lightning to pick third
Tampa Bay fails to move up in the NHL Draft and will pick third, while Florida loses out on the top pick.
By ERIN BROWNFS Florida
Florida Panthers suffered yet another major defeat at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche.
Florida, which finished with the worst record in the NHL, will select second overall in the 2013 draft after Colorado won the league's draft lottery, held Monday night in Toronto.
The Panthers had a 25 percent chance of securing the No. 1 pick.
Prior to the lottery, Florida GM Dale Tallon suggested having the second overall pick would be just fine.
"We'll get a hell of a player there, too," Tallon told the media Sunday. "We're in good shape."
The NHL changed the rules for its draft lottery this season, with all non-playoff teams having a chance to win the top pick. In previous years, a team could move no higher than four spots in the draft order. Under the old rules, Florida would have had a 48.2 percent chance of holding the top pick.
Colorado did not make much of a jump, however, going from second to first.
This year's lottery was not the first time Florida has been knocked down by Colorado. The Avalanche swept the Panthers in their only Stanley Cup Final appearance in 1996.
Now the teams find themselves trying to acquire the young talent they need just to return to the playoffs.
The top-rated player as selected by the NHL's Central Scouting Bureau is defenseman Seth Jones, a physical shutdown defenseman who can also contribute offensively. The son of former NBA player Popeye Jones, the American has drawn comparisons by scouts to Winnipeg's Dustin Byfuglien.
Florida's Nick Bjugstad, who represented Team USA at the 2012 World Junior Championship, had the opportunity to skate with Jones, who was two years younger than his peers in that tournament. Jones ended up missing the event due to injury.
"I think he would have made the team and have been a big player for us," Bjugstad said. "He's an impressive player. He's big. He's strong. He's fast. He's smart. He's got everything, basically."
The Tampa Bay Lightning, who finished with the 28th overall in the league with 40 points, will select third.
"When we go forward we're going to analyze all the players and certainly there will be some good discussions going forward in our room," Lightning Assistant GM Pat Verbeek said.
If Jones ends up being selected by the Avalanche, that leaves offensive standouts Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin for the Panthers and the Lightning to pick up. MacKinnon racked up 32 goals and 43 assists in 44 games this season. Drouin put up 41 goals and 64 assists in 49 contests.
Florida rookie Jonathan Huberdeau had close encounters with both players, skating against the Halifax Mooseheads duo in the QMJHL and with them on the 2013 Canadian junior team.
"I think he pro-ready," Huberdeau said of MacKinnon, a power forward. "What impressed me most is he's strong on his first three steps, pretty fast. That's what I want to have and he has it already."
Huberdeau said Drouin is a slight bit slower than MacKinnon, but shows more vision and plays more of a two-way game than the center.
"I've been watching the top three, for sure," Tallon said. "I have a good idea and a good feel of who they are. We're going to do really well. We're going to get a really good player in the first two picks."
The top prospects coming out of Europe include Finland's Aleksander Barkov, a center who had 48 points with the senior-level team Tappara, and Russia's Valeri Nichushkin, a power forward.
The draft will take place at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. on June 30.