Nashville defenseman Seth Jones fired the puck, and it ended up on the Avalanche bench, barely missing Nathan MacKinnon's head. Because the teenagers are friends — truly — MacKinnon could joke about it, even during the high-level emotionalism of Wednesday night's game at the Pepsi Center ... and a couple of days later too.

"I asked him if he was trying to take me out. He said it tipped off a player's stick," the Avalanche rookie center said Friday morning. He smiled and added, "I guess I'll believe him."

The two teenagers will be forever linked by their lottery-pick status in the 2013 draft, and the decision of the Avalanche, Florida and Tampa Bay to pass on Jones and select forwards instead. The Panthers claimed center Aleksander Barkov and the Lightning took left wing Jonathan Drouin, MacKinnon's linemate with major junior's Halifax Mooseheads. That left Jones, who spent a significant portion of his childhood in Denver, available for the Predators.

The debate, commonly framed as an issue of whether the three teams erred in not taking Jones, involves position and philosophy, coming back to the generalization that it takes longer for even exceptional young defensemen to develop into elite NHL players than it does forwards.

Jones, who turned 19 on Oct. 3, is playing 25 minutes per game for the Predators, has two goals and five assists and is a minus-3. Most of the time, he has looked neither tentative nor unwisely rushed into prime-time minutes on defense.

MacKinnon, meanwhile, mostly has centered Colorado's third line, and the native of Nova Scotia has two goals and eight assists heading into Sunday night's home game against Washington. Here's a comparison: In his 2009-10 rookie season, Matt Duchene — the No. 3 overall choice in the draft who ended up scoring 24 goals that season and finished third in Calder Trophy voting — had two goals and five assists after 15 games.