Reporting Tim Kephart
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SUNRISE (CBSMiami) – The Florida Panthers fell on a lot of hard times in the lockout-shortened 2013 season. But, the team’s luck may be about to changes thanks in large part to the Colorado Avalanche and Sunday’s NHL Draft.
The Avalanche have said publicly that they will take center Nathan MacKinnon with the first overall pick in Sunday’s draft. That would leave the Panthers with the number one overall play in the draft, defenseman Seth Jones, ready to come to South Florida with the number two pick.
The Panthers are no strangers to taking defensemen in the draft, taking two in the past three years. However, Jones is considered a can’t-miss prospect who could step into the NHL as early as the upcoming 2013-2014 season.
Jones is the son of former NBA forward “Popeye” Jones and when he’s selected with one of the first picks in the draft, will become the highest draft NHL player out of the state of Texas, ever, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Jones stands 6’4” and weighs 206 pounds and is listed as the top prospect in the draft by nearly every publication analyzing NHL prospects. Last season at the age of 17, Jones played for the Portland Winterhawks in the Western Hockey League and had 56 points (14 goals and 42 assists) in 61 games.
If Jones does fall to Florida and the Panthers make the pick, he would join a formidable defense with 6’5”, 210 pound defenseman Erik Gudbranson. The duo would be in front of Florida’s apparent goalie of the future, 6’6”, 200 pound Jacob Markstrom. All three would be under 24 years old next year as well.
The Panthers could then turn their attention to the offense in the rest of the draft and free agency. The Cats are set at center with reigning Calder Trophy winner Jonathan Huberdeau at the helm, but more scoring is always a plus in the NHL.