NEWARK, N.J. — For months, all Nathan MacKinnon heard was how Seth Jones was going to be drafted No. 1 overall by the Avalanche.
Having grown up in a Denver suburb, and as the consensus top player in the draft, Jones, a defenseman, seemed a natural fit.
But then a funny thing happened. Avalanche GM Joe Sakic and coach Patrick Roy said Colorado likely will take MacKinnon, a center, Sunday at the Prudential Center.
"You hear so much about Seth and how he's the perfect fit, but you forget that you're in the mix, too," said MacKinnon, out of Halifax of the junior Quebec league. "So it was pretty cool to hear. But I don't want to get my hopes up too much. All of it can change."
Jones, out of Portland of the junior Western league, knows that, not that he would take much of a fall if not picked first. If MacKinnon goes first — and there always is the chance the Avalanche is running misdirection — Jones is expected to go second to the Panthers. That means the Lightning likely would go with play-making LW Jonathan Drouin at No. 3, though C Aleksander Barkov certainly would be a consideration.
"It definitely would have been a cool story for everyone, and it definitely looked like it was going in that direction," Jones said of being drafted No. 1. "But Joe and Pat know what they're doing. If they think that's what's going to help their team win, then that's what they think."
KID STUFF: MacKinnon grew up in Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, a few blocks from where Penguins star Sidney Crosby lived. Both attended Shattuck St. Mary's prep school in Minnesota, and MacKinnon was the first pick in the Quebec league draft, same as Crosby eight years prior. Now they are summer skating buddies.
"He doesn't give me any specific advice," MacKinnon said. "Just watching him is the best thing I can do and work with him and realize why he got there. It was because of his work ethic."
YZERMAN SPEAKS: Lightning GM Steve Yzerman said he does not anticipate moving up or down from the No. 3 spot in the draft. He also said he had no meetings planned today with any prospects.
ODDS AND ENDS: Jones is the son of former NBA player Popeye Jones, now a Nets assistant coach. … What's the first thing for Jones that comes to mind about Florida? "The Miami Heat" he said. … The one-year, one-way deal signed last week by D Keith Aulie is for $975,000.
Damian Cristodero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @LightningTimes.