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Avalanche's Sakic again implies MacKinnon will be No. 1 pick in NHL draft

NEW YORK, N.Y. - Joe Sakic has given Nathan MacKinnon another endorsement to be the first pick in the NHL draft, though the Colorado Avalanche are still listening to trade offers.

Speaking after the board of governors meeting, Colorado's executive vice president of hockey operations explained why the team preferred MacKinnon to defenceman Seth Jones, who has ties to Denver.

"We believe Seth, he's going to be a good player, as well, a very good defenceman in this league," Sakic said. "When you're picking No. 1, you want to be able to pick what you believe is going to be the best player in the draft. That was why we made that decision."

Sakic and head coach/vice president of hockey operations Patrick Roy have repeatedly singled out MacKinnon as their choice at No. 1. Sakic originally told the Denver Post that the Avalanche would pass on Jones in favour of a forward, either MacKinnon, Halifax teammate Jonathan Drouin or Finnish centre Aleksander Barkov.

Sakic called this a "deep draft" but said the Avalanche have targeted the player they're taking. He was then asked about MacKinnon.

"I think when you watch Nathan play, he's definitely a skilled guy but he's a powerful skater," Sakic said. "He can play a skill game, but he loves going to the net. He loves going to the hard areas, and he's just a tremendous player."

The Avalanche front office being so up-front with the stance of MacKinnon over Jones has raised skepticism about possibly trying to drum up a trade. The Florida Panthers pick second and the Tampa Bay Lightning third.

Sakic wouldn't say how Colorado's approach is affecting trade talks, if at all.

"Obviously when you get closer to draft time, you might receive more calls. I'm not too sure," he said. "We're very happy and content with picking first, but if we get some calls, obviously we'll listen. Right now we're excited about making the first selection."

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