The Colorado Avalanche face a very tough decision on June 30 in terms of what should they do with the first overall pick in the 2013 NHL draft.
There are two issues if they choose to use the No. 1 pick. The first is determining the best player in the 2013 NHL draft class. The second is whether they should simply take the best player no matter what, or incorporate the current depth chart of their organization into the decision.
Tackling the first question requires not only looking at the skill merits, but also any extra risk factors that could create uncertainty on their development. The top of the 2013 class has formed into Seth Jones, Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin, Valeri Nichushkin and Aleksander Barkov. Avalanche executive vice president of hockey operations Joe Sakic told the Denver Post the team currently is leaning toward picking MacKinnon, Drouin or Barkov, and classified them as the top three players in the draft.
Seth Jones has been commonly discussed as the potential top pick for Colorado, but some may mention past first overall defensemen Erik Johnson, Roman Hamrlik and Bryan Berard as reasons against picking that position again at No. 1. This argument by itself does not have a lot of merit, as it's a very small number of data points to draw any significant conclusion from. I, however, took a more thorough look at picking defensemen high here.
From discussions with pro scouts and my own observations, it seems somewhat of a consensus that the top three prospects are very close. I've heard one NHL head scout characterize Seth Jones as the clear No. 1, but in general I've found that you could stand in a room full of scouts, list the three CHL players in any order and not get laughed at. My determination is that it's a near three-way tie at the top of the draft when you account talent (Jones with a slight edge on the forwards) and position risk (forwards with a slight edge on Jones). I ultimately put the two Halifax forwards ahead of Jones, though, like ESPN's Grant Sonier.