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Avalanche take MacKinnon with first pick of draft

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NEWARK, N.J. -- For the second time in eight years, a native of Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, was selected first overall in the NHL Entry Draft.

Folks in Denver can only hope that Nathan MacKinnon will be as successful as his predecessor.

The Halifax Mooseheads center -- who hails from the same hometown as Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby -- was the first player selected on Sunday in the draft hosted by the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center.

"This is unbelievable," MacKinnon said. "I've dreamed about this moment for the majority of my life, and for it to finally come true and to be part of an organization like this is definitely surreal."

The 6-foot, 182-pound MacKinnon scored 32 goals and had 43 assists in 44 games for the Mooseheads this past season, leading Halifax to the QMJHL championship and the Memorial Cup. That included a win over the Portland Winterhawks and defenseman Seth Jones, who grew up in Denver and had previously been considered the favorite to go No. 1 overall after topping the NHL Central Scouting Service's prospect rankings for North American Skaters.

New Avalanche executive vice president of hockey operations Joe Sakic, however, indicated before the draft that his preference was for a forward, and made good on those remarks by picking MacKinnon, who has a high level of familiarity with new head coach Patrick Roy.

Before returning to the franchise he led to two Stanley Cups, Roy spent the past eight seasons as the head coach of the QMJHL's Quebec Remparts, including MacKinnon's two years in Halifax. Having faced Roy's teams as an opponent, MacKinnon is eager to play for the Hall of Fame goaltender.

"I'm pretty familiar with him," MacKinnon said. "I know his systems pretty well, just from studying against him in the [2012] playoffs. I'm not sure if they're going to be the same or not, but I know his style. He's a very competitve guy, and his will to win is second to none, so I'm very excited to play for him."

MacKinnon will join a young Avalanche core that also includes Gabriel Landeskog (the No. 2 overall pick in 2011) and Matt Duchene (the No. 3 overall pick in 2009). The Avs also landed veteran winger Alex Tanguay from the Calgary flames this week, sending David Jones and Shane O'Brien to the Flames for Tanguay and defenseman Cory Sarich.

Seth Jones, meanwhile, fell to the Nashville Predators at fourth overall, following Russian centerman Alexander Barkov at No. 2 overall (Florida) and Halifax winger Johnathan Drouin at No. 3 (Tampa Bay). While the son of former NBA forward Popeye Jones was disappointed at his place in the draft order -- "I'm competitive," he said, "and you definitely want to prove [the teams that passed] wrong, and you definitely want to show them why they should've picked you" -- the younger Jones was eager to make the best of his new home in Nashville, where he's eager to play with Preds captain Shea Weber.

"He's one of the top defensemen in the league," Jones said, "and he's been that way for so many years now. He's very experienced, and I think he can help a guy like me."

The hometown Devils made arguably the biggest splash of the day, trading their No. 9 overall pick to the Vancouver Canucks for goaltender Cory Schneider. Schneider posted a 17-9-4 season with a 2.11 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage in his first season as Vancouver's starter, but was traded after the Canucks found it extremely difficult to move Roberto Luongo and his contract, which carries a $5.3 million salary cap hit through the 2021-22 season. Instead, the Canucks will keep Luongo, and add center Bo Horvat from the Ontario Hockey League's London Knights with the pick they acquired from New Jersey.

Overall, Canadians accounted for 17 of the 30 players selected in the first round. Jones was the first of four Americans picked, joined by forwards Kerby Rychel of the OHL's Windsor Spitfires (Columbus, No. 19 overall), Michael McCarron of the U.S. National Team Development Program (Montreal, No. 25) and Ryan Hartman of the OHL's Plymouth Whalers (Chicago, No. 30). Austria, Finland, Sweden, and Russia saw two players each drafted in the first round, while San Jose draftee Mirco Mueller was the lone first-rounder from Switzerland.

NOTES: The New York Islanders also made a splash at the draft, trading right wing Nino Neiderreiter to the Minnesota Wild for winger Cal Clutterbuck and a third-round pick (No. 70 overall). Clutterbuck (four goals, six assists in 42 games this past season), is due to be a restricted free agent this summer, while former first-round pick Neiderreiter spent 2012-13 in the AHL, scoring 28 goals and adding 22 assists in 74 games...The Pittsburgh Penguins moved Pascal Dupuis to the San Jose Sharks for a second-round pick (No. 50 overall). Dupuis, meanwhile, is scheduled to hit the market as an unrestricted free agent next month...The Detroit Red Wings added an extra second-round pick, flipping the 18th overall pick to San Jose for the 20th pick and the 58th pick. San Jose used its pick on Mueller, a defenseman from the WHL's Everett Silvertips, while Detroit selected winger Anthony Mantha of the QMJHL's Val d'Or Foreurs, whose grandfather, Andre Pronovost, played for the Red Wings in the 1960s....The Carolina Hurricanes traded defenseman Jamie McBain and the No. 35 overall pick to Buffalo for defenseman Andrej Sekera. The Sabres used the draft pick to select Michigan-bound forward J.T. Compher from the U.S. NTDP...The Devils were at it again in the second round, trading pick No. 39 to Phoenix for the 42nd and 73rd picks overall. The Coyotes used their pick to select center Laurent Dauphin from Chicoutimi in the QMJHL, while New Jersey took Boston College-bound Steve Santini of the NTDP with the No. 42 pick....The Toronto Maple Leafs brought a native son home when they acquired Dave Bolland from the Chicago Blackhawks for the 51st and 117th picks in Sunday's draft, plus a fourth-rounder in 2014. Bolland scored the Stanley Cup-clinching goal for the Blackhawks on Monday night in Boston.
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