NEWARK, N.J. – Nathan MacKinnon and Sidney Crosby now share more than a hometown.
They’ve both been No. 1 picks in the NHL draft.
The Colorado Avalanche made the 17-year-old MacKinnon the first pick of the draft on Sunday at the Prudential Center.
The Avalanche won the draft lottery for the first time in team history and Joe Sakic, the man put in charge of Colorado’s rebuilding project, had made it clear that MacKinnon was going to be the top pick. He was the first player drafted No. 1 overall out of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League since the Pittsburgh Penguins selected Crosby in 2005.
MacKinnon and Crosby are both from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia.
“I love Sid. He’s my favorite player,” MacKinnon said. “I guess he’s still my favorite player. I don’t really know what to say now since I’m going to be in the same league as him. I don’t know if I should dislike him or not.”
MacKinnon, a 6-foot, 182-pound center, said it all with a laugh. But he’s serious about making the big club this season with Colorado.
“Hopefully, I can make the team and stick there,” MacKinnon said. “I feel like I can be a contributor next year.”
MacKinnon is a solid two-way presence with strong hands and stick-handling and skating skills. He is considered a natural scorer and an excellent distributor. Sakic, a former Avalanche captain who is now the executive vice president of hockey operations, ended the guessing game in the final week when he said MacKinnon would be the pick.
“They said it in the media but I didn’t really get my hopes up,” MacKinnon said. “I was definitely more nervous than I expected to be a couple of minutes before the draft.”
He played for the Halifax Mooseheads and led them to the Memorial Cup championship. MacKinnon, who turns 18 Sept. 1, was named tournament MVP after scoring 13 points.
Next stop, Colorado?
“So proud to be part of the Avalanche organization!!!” he tweeted to more than 45,000 followers.
That was just the start of a busy day at the home of the New Jersey Devils, who gave a jam-packed crowd a reason to cheer when they announced they acquired goaltender Cory Schneider, 27, from Vancouver. Schneider seems in line to be the eventual successor to Martin Brodeur, 41, in net.
Brodeur personally added another backup when he made the announcement that the Devils had drafted his son, Anthony.
The Devils made a late trade for the 208th overall pick and one of the final ones in the seventh round. Brodeur took the microphone and announced Anthony’s name. Brodeur waited at the team’s draft table to present his 18-year-old son, also a goaltender, with a jersey.
Anthony Brodeur’s friends and family in the stands erupted in cheers.
“I’m trying to create my own name,” Anthony Brodeur said, “not on being Martin Brodeur’s son.”
The Florida Panthers made center Aleksander Barkov, the top-ranked European skater, the second overall pick. Tampa Bay took forward Jonathan Drouin, also out of Halifax, with the third pick.
The Nashville Predators pounced on defenseman Seth Jones with the fourth overall pick. Jones, a 6-foot-4, 205-pound defenseman, was widely considered the top prospect. He was the top player on the NHL Central Scouting’s final list.
He is the son of former NBA forward Popeye Jones. Popeye Jones paced the floor of the Prudential Center and said Seth slept great and was calm in the final hours leading up to the draft. But that had to change just a bit when Jones, who played for Portland of the Western Hockey League, slipped to fourth.
Carolina selected Elias Lindholm, who played in Sweden, fifth and the Calgary Flames followed with center Sean Monahan from Ottawa of the Ontario Hockey League.
After picking first the last three years, the Edmonton Oilers took defenseman Darnell Nurse, of Saulte Ste. Marie in the OHL, with the seventh choice. Nurse is the nephew of former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb.