Welcome to “get to know your Avs”! This feature will take a look at current Avalanche players (and maybe some staff, too) to give you an idea as to just who these guys are and what they mean to the Avalanche.
Yes, some (or most) of you will already know these guys but don’t be party poopers; nobody likes party poopers.
Today, we take a look at the future of the franchise, the top overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft: Nathan MacKinnon.
Who: Nathan MacKinnon
Nicknames: “Nate the Great”, Nate Mack. Needs a better one but we’ll work on that.
How He Came to Denver: 1st overall pick, 2013 Draft
What he’s done: On the NHL level, he’s obviously done nothing yet as he’s only been a member of the Avalanche a little more than a month.
What he’s done to get to this point? Let’s start there. He’s been on the radar quite awhile now; some argue that he could’ve gone ahead of 2012 first overall pick Nail Yakupov had he been draft-eligible. Being from the same town as Sidney Crosby probably didn’t hurt his hype but MacKinnon has more than shown he was the best player in the draft.
There was talk for awhile about a 1A/1B/1C situation with Portland Winterhawks defenseman Seth Jones andHalifaxteammate Jonathan Drouin while MacKinnon battled injury, but he separated himself during the Memorial Cup tournament. While leading the Mooseheads to their first Memorial Cup title, he picked up MVP honors with a tournament best 13 points in four games, as well as a hat trick in the final game against Jones’ Winterhawks.
What he means to the team currently: That much we don’t know yet. He’ll be the third line center – Patrick Roy has said as much – but we don’t know how he’ll be used, if he’ll see power play time (I would think he will), and so on.
With the way the top six currently shakes out, he’s not going to be asked to do a ton and will be allowed to develop at his own pace; probably ideal in most situations though most first overall picks end up in much worse situations.
He’ll definitely mean jersey sales and increased interest. With respect to top picks Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog, the Avalanche haven’t seen this type of player since the days of Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg. Even if MacKinnon doesn’t set the world on fire in year one, he’ll still no doubt show flashes of what’s to come.
What to expect: Though his ice time will be limited on the third line, the pressure should effectively be off his shoulders thanks to the forwards on the top two lines. He’ll be allowed to play his game, develop at his own pace, and learn the rigors of what it takes to be successful in the NHL.
Still, he’ll see some time on the power play because of his tremendous skill set. His numbers might not be enough to get him the Calder Trophy but expect a very respectable season: high-teens in goals, 40-ish points, and a boatload of expectations for year two.
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