2016 Top 25 Avalanche under 25: #1 Nathan MacKinnon

Andi Duroux Avatar
September 21, 2016


After a good run through an unexpectedly turbulent summer, BSN’s 2016 Top 25 Avalanche Under 25 wraps up with our #1 pick, Nathan MacKinnon.

The former first overall selection was an easy choice for the top honor, ranking unanimously in that position among the staff writers.  The 21-year-old brings elite hockey skills, speed, and bubble gum chewing, so there’s a very good chance he’ll hold down this spot for years to come.

Who is Nathan MacKinnon?

Nathan MacKinnon, also known as Nate MacKinnon or That One Guy From Sidney Crosby’s Hometown, started his career by obliterating his peers in the Cole Harbour minor hockey system.  At the atom age (10 and under), he scored 200 points in 50 games, but slowed down a bit as he progressed into AAA bantam at 12, only racking up 110 points against players two years older than him.

After a 145 points in 35 games season as a 13-year-old, he moved to Faribault, Minnesota to continue his career at the famed Shattuck-St. Mary’s boarding school.  While he was there, he averaged around 2 points per game and skated for Team Canada at the U17 level.

Heading into his Major Junior draft year, there was some question whether or not he’d choose the NCAA route or return to the QMJHL.  On the day of the draft, he was actually in Nebraska, skating with the USHL Omaha Lancers.  Regardless, Baie-Comeau Drakkar selected him first overall, then set about trying to convince him to come play for the team despite his lack of French.  However, their efforts didn’t work, and on July 13, 2011 – only 39 days after the draft – his rights were traded to the Halifax Mooseheads.

MacKinnon did reasonably well for his hometown team, averaging 1.5 points per game, finishing in the top 30 in scoring both years despite time missed for injury, and helping Halifax win their first Memorial Cup while being named tournament MVP.

After a – shall we say “poor”? – season for the Avs in 2013, MacKinnon was near unanimously predicted to be the first draft choice of the Sakic/Roy era of Avs management.  While teammate Jonathan Drouin, Alex Barkov, and Denver-ties Seth Jones were also in the conversation, it was hinted by both Roy and then-scouting director Rick Pracey that the team was leaning towards the skilled center from the Q.  On June 30th, it became official – MacKinnon was an Av.

From there, he went on to make the team as a young 18-year-old, pass Wayne Gretzky’s record for the longest point streak in NHL history at that age, win the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year, and brake a guy’s ankle in the playoffs.  Since then, he’s beaten speed skaters, starred in goofy Tim Horton’s commercials, and played for Canada in the 2014 and 2015 World Championships.

Right now, he’s representing Team North America at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.  He’s been one of the team’s best players, and last week, he did this:

Feel free to watch that on repeat.

What is the future for Nathan MacKinnon?

Despite MacKinnon’s talent and accomplishments, his scoring in the past two seasons for the Avalanche has left a lot to be desired.  Even with a sophomore slump and the adjustment from playing wing to playing center, putting up only 38 points in 64 games for someone of his caliber is unacceptable.  52 points in 71 games is a little better, but it’s still not good enough.

This summer, he signed a 7-year, $44.1 million deal with the Avs, making his average salary the highest on the team over the course of the deal.  There’s no doubt that he has room to grow his game and earn that contract, but he needs to figure out how to become a dominant star in the NHL as quickly as possible.

The Avs have committed to him as their top forward, so if he has another disappointing scoring year, it could quickly scuttle the team’s chances of the postseason.  However, his speed, shot, and smarts will hopefully lend themselves very well to Bednar’s new system.  Finding a way to get the most out of MacKinnon is one of the major keys to the season and should provide a good challenge for the first year coach.

Luckily, if MacKinnon’s World Cup play is any indication, Avs fans could be in for a treat this year.  If he can continue this level of play into the regular season, the sky’s the limit for #29.


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