There's a superstar from Cole Harbour making waves in the NHL this season, and while I could talk about Sidney Crosby and his back-to-back Stanley Cup wins (and 33 points in 34 games this year), the player I'm referring to is 22-year old Nathan MacKinnon. Much like Crosby, Cole Habour-native Nathan MacKinnon was a 1st overall pick (2013 to the Avalanche), and burst onto the scene as an 18-year old with 24 goals/63 points in 82 games while taking home the Calder Trophy and helping the Avs return to the playoffs for the first time since 2009/10. As an Avs fan I was ecstatic about what was to come for MacKinnon, if he was this dominant at 18 years old who knew what he would be like 5 years from then. However since his rookie year he has failed to top 24 goals or 63 points in a season, and while he has always shown glimpses of being a talented player he lacked consistency in his game while the Avs have had struggled each of those 3 seasons.
The Avs hit rock-bottom last season with an NHL-worst 48 points, which took a toll on a number of their young players including MacKinnon and long-time Avs star Matt Duchene. Going into this season it was clear that Duchene was on his way out, and with Sakic finally pulling the trigger on a trade in early November the Avs quickly became MacKinnon's team. He responded with the best month of his NHL career, tallying 5 goals (2 OT winners) and 15 assists for 20 points in 12 games en route to winning the NHL's 1st Star of November.
After starting with just 1 goal and 4 assists in his first 10 games of the season, MacKinnon has 14 goals and 20 assists (34 points) over his last 23 games which is the most in the NHL over that time. Through 33 games this season, MacKinnon has 15 goals and 39 points, which puts him in a tie for 8th in the NHL in points (7 behind Nikita Kucherov in 1st). MacKinnon has formed great chemistry on the Avs top line with Gabriel Landeskog (25 points) and Mikko Rantanen (29 points), as the line has combined for 93 points in 33 games.
As a big MacKinnon fan since the day the Avs drafted him, there's one thing that always has remained constant with #29: his ability to produce flashy, highlight-reel goals. The great thing about his play this season is he is not only on pace to score career-highs in goals and points, he seems to be scoring a highlight-reel goal every few games. Need proof? Here are some recent clips of his brilliant play this season:
Goal vs Tampa Bay (Dec. 16)
Goal vs Florida (Dec. 14)
2nd goal vs Florida (Dec. 14): https://twitter.com/NHL/status/941525703379562496
Goal vs Pittsburgh - waved off for offside (Dec. 11)
Goal of the Year Candidate vs Florida (Dec. 9)
OT Winner vs. Winnipeg (Nov. 29)
OT winner vs Detroit (Nov. 19)
Goal vs Washington (Nov. 16)
NHL Player of the Month - November (5 goals, 15 assists)
MacKinnon seems to be thriving in Colorado since the Duchene trade, and despite being on a young team with a lot of growing pains the future remains bright for both MacKinnon and the Avalanche. There's no question the Avs were the laughing stock of the NHL last season, but MacKinnon has brought the Avs back to relevancy this season and #29 is worth the price of admission himself alone. Most importantly, MacKinnon seems to be enjoying himself again both on and off the ice, as evident with this CBC interview a few weeks ago:
Nathan MacKinnon - After Hours with Scott Oake and Louie DeBrusk
It remains to be seen where MacKinnon will finish in the scoring race this season, but he's well on his way to his first career 30-goal/80 point season if he keeps producing at the pace he is. Either way, there's another Superstar from Cole Harbour and at 22-years old MacKinnon is going be an elite NHL player for years and years to come. This comes as no surprise to me, just happened a few years after I expected it to after his dominant rookie season. Now the entire hockey world is seeing how good Nathan MacKinnon can be.
OT goal vs Sweden at World Cup (was at this game live)
Joel Forman - The Forman Faceoff