Top 5 Avalanche to Watch 2015-16

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Nathan MacKinnon

Dec 20, 2014; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres defenseman Andre Benoit (61) and Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon (29) go after a loose puck during the first period at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

After Matt Duchene, forward Nathan MacKinnon is considered the great hope for the Colorado Avalanche. He was our first-ever #1 draft pick, and he lived up to the hype right away, going on to win the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year.

Needless to say, his 14 goals and 24 assists in a season shortened by injury were not the totals anyone was hoping to see last year. Avalanche coaching kept him sheltered, but as he slowly took on more responsibility, it seemed like he couldn’t get a rhythm going. It’d be easy to write off the whole season if it was all disappointing. However, the 2014-15 season saw MacKinnon get in his first NHL fight and score his first NHL hat trick — those are big milestones for a teenaged hockey player.

Of course, the season also saw MacKinnon fade completely into the background, not even scoring a goal until the 11th game of the season — at which point he scored two. He bounced down to the third line pretty regularly, and even sat on the bench for a while. He had his nose broken in a game against the Minnesota Wild, lost his roommate/teammate when Max Talbot got traded and then saw the season end in a broken foot.

Water under the bridge. MacKinnon turns 20 on September 1, so he won’t be a teen anymore. Judging by social media and the news, he spent the summer bumming around (and training and committing acts of charity) with NHL superstar Sidney Crosby.

We’re all hoping this summer was a growing up process for him, and he’s going to slowly take over the reins of top-six center this season.