Avalanche choose Nathan MacKinnon with top draft pick

Nathan MacKinnon. Courtesy: TSN

Nathan MacKinnon. Courtesy: TSN

DENVER – The Colorado Avalanche used their first overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft to select forward Nathan MacKinnon. The draft took place Sunday at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.

“We are thrilled to be adding Nathan to our organization,” said Avalanche Director of Amateur Scouting Rick Pracey. “Nathan is a skilled forward with elite skating ability and speed. He plays an aggressive, attacking game and can elevate his game when his team needs it most.”

The 17-year-old MacKinnon is the first player to be selected first overall by the Avalanche since the franchise moved to Denver in 1995.

MacKinnon’s stock rose after leading the Halifax Mooseheads to their first Quebec Major Junior Hockey League championship being named MVP of the 2013 Memorial Cup. In four games he scored a tournament-high 13 points (7g/6a) including five points and a hat trick in the final against Portland on May 26 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

In 2013 MacKinnon represented Team Canada at the IIHF World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia. Appearing in all six of Canada’s games at the tournament, the 6-foot, 182-pound center posted one assist.

In his rookie season with Halifax in 2011-12, MacKinnon appeared in 58 games and was the team leader in goals (31), assists (47) and points (78). MacKinnon also led the Mooseheads in playoff scoring, registering 28 points (13g/15a) in 17 postseason contests. In the 2011 QMJHL Draft MacKinnon was selected first overall by the Baie-Comeau Drakkar who the traded his rights to Halifax.

Joining select company, MacKinnon is one of three 17-year-olds to be taken first overall in the last 26 NHL drafts dating back to 1988. The other selections were Joe Thornton in 1997 and Sidney Crosby in 2005.

A native of Nova Scotia, MacKinnon was born on Sept. 1, 1995. Growing up in Cole harbor, Nova Scotia, MacKinnon helped his bantam team win the Atlantic AAA Championship in 2008. Prior to joining Halifax, he played for Shattuck-St. Mary’s prep school in Minnesota from 2009-11.

With their second round selection (32nd overall) the Avalanche chose defenseman Chris Brigras who played for the Owen Sound Attack of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. The 6-foot, 187-pound Brigas was born on Feb. 22, 1995 in Orilla, Ontario.

Praised for his no risk taking approach, the defenseman was highly regarded as a possible first round selection. Scouts rated Brigras as a strong outlet passer who knows how to locate himself to cut down angles.

The Avalanche used their third round selection (63rd overall) to pick goalie Spencer Martin.  The 6-foot-2, 192-pound Martin was born on June 8, 1995 in Oakville, Ontario.

Playing the last two seasons for the Mississauga Steelheads, scouts ranked Martin as the top goal-tending prospect from the Ontario Hockey League and a possible first round selection.

In the 2012-13 season Martin blocked 1,214 shots and recorded a .906 save percentage

In the fourth round (93rd overall) the Avalanche picked defenseman Mason Geertsen. The 6-foot-4, 203- pound Geertsen was born on April 19, 1995 in Rocky Rapids, Alberta, and describes himself as a physical force on the ice.

During his third season with the Edmonton Oil Kings, Geertshen was traded to the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League.

Geertsen was traded to the Giants on Oct. 31, 2012 and finished the year with two goals, 12 assists and 130 penalty minutes. Geertsen was a first-round pick (18th overall) by the Oil Kings in the 2010 WHL bantam draft.

In the fifth round (123rd overall) the Avalanche selected Will Butcher of the United State National Team Development Program. Butcher is a 5-foot-11, 182-pound defenseman from Wisconsin.

He will be attending the University of Denver next season.

The sixth round (153rd overall) saw the Avalanche pick Ben Storm a 6-foot-6, 216-pound defenseman who played for Muskegon of the USHL last season.

In round seven (183rd overall) the Avalanche took Wilhelm Westlund a 5-foot-11, 184-pound defenseman from Sweden.