NEWARK – Nathan MacKinnon found out he was the first overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft when everyone else did.
“They didn’t tell me to my face that they would take me,” said MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche, who selected him first overall in Newark on Sunday.
“I was definitely more nervous than I expected to be a few minutes before the draft.”
The Avalanche had made their intentions known in the weeks leading up to the draft, insofar that they wouldn’t be selecting defenseman Seth Jones first overall. Some felt it was a smokescreen in an attempt to generate a trade for the pick. Some felt it was to prepare the fans who wanted the Avs to draft Jones, who went No. 4 to the Nashville Predators and had grown up with the Colorado organization when his father Popeye played with the Denver Nuggets, for disappointment.
But the Avalanche stayed true to their word, and selected MacKinnon first overall.
“I’ve dreamed about this moment for the majority of my life. To be part of an organization like his is surreal,” he said.
MacKinnon’s first hug was for his father, a former ‘Junior B’ goalie who had supported MacKinnon throughout his career. (Wonder what he thinks of his son playing for Patrick Roy?)
“I wouldn’t be here without them,” said MacKinnon of his parents.
He joins an Avalanche team with some palpable talent up front: Matt Duchene, Gabe Landeskog and Ryan O’Reilly to start.
But even if the cupboard wasn’t filled offensively, MacKinnon said he’s not looking to be a franchise savior as the first overall pick.
“I think if you think about it too much, you’re just going to psyche yourself out. You can’t expect to save any franchise,” said MacKinnon before the draft.
What he will be: The next in a grand tradition of center icemen for the Avalanche, from Duchene and Paul Stastny to Peter Forsberg to the player-turned-player personnel man that greeted MacKinnon on stage: Colorado legend Joe Sakic.
“He’s so excited for this. It’s going to be a great fit,” said MacKinnon when asked what Sakic said to him on stage.
Well, at least what he could remember.
“I kind of blacked out for a second. But it’s so cool,” said MacKinnon.