NHL Draft: Seth Jones tops final list of North American skaters

Seth Jones plays for the Portland Winterhawks in the WHL. (Getty Images)
Seth Jones plays for the Portland Winterhawks in the WHL. (Getty Images)

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The NHL Draft lottery is just a few days away, when the worst teams in the NHL will hope that their luck has turned and they will get the first pick in the summer's draft.

That still will likely mean they will select Seth Jones first overall. The American defenseman kept his spot atop the final edition of the NHL Central Scouting Service list of the top North American Skaters in the draft.

Coming in at Nos. 2 and 3 is the Halifax duo of Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin. The forwards, particularly Drouin, possess a lot of offensive potential that we're used to seeing in high draft picks in this league.

You can see the entire list here.

North American skaters
Rank Name Team Position
1 Seth Jones Portland (WHL) D
2 Nathan MacKinnon Halifan (QMJHL) C
3 Jonathan Drouin Halifax (QMJHL) LW
4 Darnell Nurse Sault Ste. Marie (OHL) D
5 Sean Monathan Ottawa (OHL) C
6 Hunter Shinkaruk Medicine Hat (WHL) C/LW
7 Valentin Zykov Baie-Comeau (QMJHL) LW
8 Frederik Gauthier Rimouski (QMJHL) C
9 Mirco Mueller Everett (WHL) D
10 Anthony Mantha Val-D'Or (QMJHL) RW

Central Scouting has a few different lists, putting European skaters on a separate ranking than North Americans. The same two distinctions are made for goaltenders as well. Topping the European skaters are Finnish center Aleksander Barkov and Russian winger Valeri Nichushkin. Both of them figure to be very high picks as well, possibly right behind the North American trio.

International skaters
Rank Name Team Position
1 Aleksander Barkov Tappara (Finland) C
2 Valeri Nichushkin Chelyabinsk (Russia) RW
3 Elias Lindholm Brynas (Sweden) C
4 Rasmus Ristolainen TPS (Finland) D
5 Alexander Wennberg Djurgarden (Sweden-2) C

Among the goaltenders the top North American netminder is also from Halifax in the QMJHL, the 6-1 Zachary Fucale. The European list is a little more interesting since it deviates from the norm that we have come to expect from goaltenders. Juuse Saros (Finland), Ebbe Sionas (Sweden) and Luka Gracnar (Austria) are the top three and none of them is listed as being taller than 5-10.25. We're used to seeing big goalies that take up a lot of the net but the most important thing is if you can just stop the puck.

It's not much of a surprise to see that Jones is still considered the top prospect. He is the type of defenseman who comes along once every few years, a polished, big-bodied player who skates exceptionally well and has a bright future offensively as well as in his own zone. He was part of the American team that took gold at the World Junior Championships in January, a stable force on their blue line who got better, it seemed, as the tournament went along.

By now most people know about his backstory. Seth is the son of former NBA player Popeye Jones. Seth was turned on to hockey while his dad was a player for the Denver Nuggets and a conversation that Popeye had with Avalanche legend Joe Sakic helped get Seth on the fast track. The message: make sure he can skate. Well, Seth can skate.

This season Jones led WHL defensemen with 56 points in 61 games on 14 goals and 42 assists.

If Jones does go No. 1 overall -- and it would be a major surprise if he didn't -- then he would be the first American taken No. 1 since Patrick Kane in 2007. He would also become the first African-American player to go first overall.

Right now the Florida Panthers are the favorite to pick first in the draft before the lottery is held, and it's pretty clear they are already eyeing the Portland Winterhawks star, asking fans on Twitter if they think he would look good in Panthers red. Well yes, yes he would. He'd also look good in the burgandy and blue of the Avalanche or any other team that wins the lottery.

Regardless who gets the first overall pick, there will be a lot of teams happy with their selections because this draft is being billed as one of the deepest and rich in talent that we've seen in a long time.

The draft will be held June 30 in New Jersey's Prudential Center. Because of the compressed season the draft will all take place on one day instead of over the weekend.

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