Nathan MacKinnon, the Colorado Avalanche center, looks to become the next young star in the NHL. (Photo by: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Just last season the Colorado Avalanche were the second worst team in the league, and with a little luck in the NHL draft lottery, the Avs received the number one pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. Days before the draft, the Avs executive vice president of hockey operations, Joe Sakic, vowed to draft a young superstar from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, Nathan MacKinnon. It was agreed by most draft analysts that MacKinnon was going to be a star in the NHL at some point in his career. However, no one could have predicted he would become an elite player in just one short season, and if they did, they were blowing smoke.
18-year-old, Nathan MacKinnon was the Memorial Cup MVP for the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) in 2013 when he was just 17. He was voted MVP after helping his club to their first ever Memorial Cup victory over the Portland Winterhawks. MacKinnon posted a staggering 33 points in just 17 playoff games in the QMJHL, and 13 points in four Memorial Cup games. In total, he averaged 2.19 points per game (PPG) in the 2013 post-season. In just two seasons with Halifax, the six footer posted 153 points in 102 regular season competitions. For those wondering, that is roughly 1.5 PPG. Yeah, pretty impressive, to say the least. Not to mention he was the first player from Shattuck St. Mary's prep school to be drafted first overall since some guy named Sidney Crosby; you may have heard of him. The two do not just share the same prep school, they share the same hometown. "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."
It is remarkable what this young stud had done before the age of 18, and once he could buy a lottery ticket, not a damn thing changed.
In his first ever NHL season he played all 82 games in the regular season and put up 63 points. On top of that, he is a finalist for the Calder Trophy (rookie of the year) this season and is a favorite to win. MacKinnon is tied for the eleventh most points by an 18-year-old in one season. His 24 goals and 39 assists puts him above players like Jaromir Jagr (57 points), Steven Stamkos (46 points), and fellow Avs teammate, Matt Duchene (55 points). MacKinnon has been a key contributor to the Avalanche who finished first in the Central Division, above top notch teams like St. Louis and Chicago. He helped secure the Avs a playoff spot with a 13 game point streak that ended on March 6th. Once Colorado got to the playoffs MacKinnon reached another level of play.
Despite having three scoreless away games in six playoff contests against the Minnesota Wild, MacKinnon shares the lead for the most playoff points with ten. After just the first two games he had seven points. On top of leading in points, number 29 is sixth in the NHL in playoff plus/minus at plus five. MacKinnon averages 20:42 minutes per game which is roughly three more minutes than he did in the regular season. That is about three to four more shifts a game. MacKinnon and the Avs face the Minnesota Wild in a series deciding game 7 on Wednesday night.
He possesses all the skills to be a future MVP: dirty hands, dazzling moves, a disgustingly quick wrist shot and the will to be a hockey superstar. It is unseen, if he will keep up this production, but everything so far points to him becoming an NHL icon. The elusive two-way forward has already made a name for himself as a guy teams must key on if they wish to have any success, which is good for the Avs who have multiple players like this. If MacKinnon and his teammates can keep up their prolific play they are sure to be a force in the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs and years to come.
Under new Avs head coach and hall of famer, Patrick Roy, MacKinnon has received comparisons to former Avalanche players, Peter Forsberg and Joe Sakic. Sakic is a current hall of famer and Forsberg is sure to follow his old teammate. I think MacKinnon is without a doubt a future hall of famer and I hate comparing players that never played in the same era. I feel a more fair and current comparison is Pavel Datsyuk or his favorite player Sidney Crosby. He has silky mitts like Datsyuk and the awareness of Crosby, and when these attributes come together you are left with an outstanding athlete that is sure to be an Avs and NHL great.