Avalanche Nathan MacKinnon Having Fun at IIHF Worlds


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Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon is enjoying himself at the IIHF World Championship. MacKinnon is playing for Team Canada, and so far he’s recorded a goal and three assists.

While MacKinnon has played internationally for Canada before, prior to this year it’s always been for juniors or Under-17. This is his first campaign playing with the big boys, and he’s having fun.

Youth on Team Canada

For once Nathan MacKinnon isn’t the youngest guy around — that honor goes to Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad. MacKinnon, speaking to reporters at the IIHF Worlds, joked:

"“Obviously a guy like Ekblad, he’s the youngest. He looked great tonight [against the Swedes]. I feel like a bit of a vet with him — I’m about six months older, so definitely a big deal.”"

Actually, it’s five months, but, you know.

MacKinnon acknowledges that the Canadian team is made up of “young talent.” Of course, MacKinnon is comfortable playing on a younger team. The core of Avalanche players ranges in age from his 19 to 27 (defenseman Erik Johnson and goalie Semyon Varlamov). Most of the core players are early 20s, though — 22 (captain Gabriel Landeskog), 23 (Tyson Barrie) 24 (Matt Duchene, Ryan O’Reilly).

MacKinnon thinks that, while the Canadian team is overall pretty young, they have a good mix with some veterans such as Vancouver Canuck Dan Hamhuis, Dallas Star Jason Spezza and Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby. He thinks the younger players “keep the old guys loose a little bit. We definitely have a lot of fun.”

Nathan MacKinnon’s Teammates

Much has been made about the fact that Nathan MacKinnon and Sidney Crosby come from the same town of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Naturally the younger MacKinnon grew up idolizing Crosby.  He told the Edmonton Sun how much of a role model Crosby was for him:

"“I idolized him. I wanted his picture and autograph and all his stuff and that sort of thing. He wasn’t just a good role model for me and every other kid in Cole Harbour, I think he’s been one for every kid across Canada.”"

Now they’re teammates and have even spent time on the same line. In fact, MacKinnon and Crosby — along with Avalanche center Matt Duchene — spent part of last summer training together.

Speaking of Avalanche teammates, MacKinnon has three very familiar faces on the Canadian team — Duchene, O’Reilly and Barrie. Even before the quartet arrived in the Czech Republic for the tournament, MacKinnon was looking forward to skating with his Avalanche buddies:

"“We’re all pretty tight so it’s going to be a lot of fun.”"

Canada vs Sweden

The game against the Swedes was the first time Canada got tested. The Canadians beat the Latvians 6-1, the Czechs 6-3 and the Germans a ridiculous 10-0.

Sweden is a different team, made up mostly of NHL players. Sweden is always a tough team in international competition. Indeed, Canada came out flat-footed in the first period, and the Swedes made them pay with three goals. Canada went into the first intermission down 3-0.

MacKinnon said the Canadians were beating themselves in that first period. “It was very sloppy.” He added, “In the second we just wanted to win it, and we won it 3-1.” Team Canada still went into the second period down, but this time just by a goal.

MacKinnon also talked about the type of mindset it takes to come back from two deficits:

"“It was all positive. Even when you’re down 3-0, you just want to win the period and go from there. Obviously being down 3-0 puts some doubt in your mind, but you have to think in small, five-minute windows.”"

It worked. The Swedes took a couple bad penalties, and the Canadians capitalized. Canada scored three goals in the third and ended up winning the game 6-3.

Nathan MacKinnon enjoyed the challenge of the Swedish victory:

"“It was a very fun victory. Other games we were up the whole time, and we kind of controlled the game, but tonight it was a little different, and it was a lot of fun.”"

Of course this is the young man who thinks the prevalence of Chicago Blackhawks fans in the Pepsi Center is a “fun” challenge…In any case, it’s always fun when you’re winning.

The Canadians play France Saturday, May 9, at 8:15 am MDT.

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