Why Nathan MacKinnon Will Still Become a Superstar


After stating that Nathan MacKinnon is not the Colorado Avalanche’s most important player (read up here), a little bit of a misunderstanding came up. It’s true, MacKinnon is not the Avalanche’s most important player right now. But that doesn’t mean he won’t become a superstar in this league.

Nathan MacKinnon’s name often fell in the same sentence as that of Pittsburgh Penguins Captain Sidney Crosby.

Selected first overall in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, the expectations in MacKinnon have always been high. His name often fell in the same sentence as that of Pittsburgh Penguins Captain Sidney Crosby, who is arguably the best player the NHL has seen in recent history. That was of course due to the fact that both players were born in Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, but definitely because of MacKinnon’s talent as well.

Both MacKinnon and Crosby played two seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, before being drafted into the NHL. Crosby recorded more than 2.5 points per game during those two years, while MacKinnon “only” got 1.5. But being worse than Sidney Crosby really doesn’t mean that you might as well quit playing hockey. For example, Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos scored about 1.5 points per game in his junior years — and we all know where he is now.

Mar 12, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) skates past the bench after scoring a goal during the first period against the Boston Bruins at TD Banknorth Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

In his rookie season, Stamkos “only” got to 46 points in 79 games, while MacKinnon recorded 63 in 82, winning the Calder Trophy for the best rookie. Stamkos actually “lost” the 2009 Calder Trophy to — believe it or not — goalie Steve Mason. The only difference here is that Stamkos went on to score 51 goals and 44 assists in his sophomore year, winning the first of two “Rocket” Richard Trophies, while MacKinnon had a little bit of a slump, recording only 38 points in an injury-shortened season. 

Now here comes the surprise: you don’t have to come into the league, win the Calder Trophy — or even better, compete for the league scoring title — be the best player on your team, and repeat that every year to become a great NHL player. There are guys like Peter Forsberg, Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin who did just that. But there are also those who started out scoring around 20 points, like Tyler Seguin or Corey Perry — who even went the AHL route to becoming one of the best forwards in the game.

The point here is, that not being the team’s most important player two years into your career, doesn’t mean you will never get there.

So what’s the projection for MacKinnon? It obviously isn’t easy to tell, but judging by his talent, he still projects to be one of the best players in the league one day.

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Back in Halifax, playing for the Mooseheads, MacKinnon and Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin absolutely destroyed their opponents. By the way, there is also little doubt that Drouin will turn into one of the best forwards in the league. MacKinnon was arguably the fastest player in the entire CHL, and incredibly gifted offensively, while also being defensively responsible.

In his 2013-14 NHL rookie season, that didn’t change. He is probably the fastest skater on the Avalanche and one of the fastest in the league. He played with a crazy amount of skill and creativity, while always looking confident when out on the ice. Furthermore, he was really good defensively as well, which is somewhat surprising for a young forward like him.

One season later, that creativity and confidence seemed to have vanished. It is important to understand, though, that these two go hand in hand. If you aren’t confident with what you and your team are doing, you start skating into the offensive zone, stop and dump the puck at the goalie — every time.

It sounds crazy, but losing is a thing you have to learn.

Playing in Halifax and then on a Central Division winning Colorado Avalanche, Nathan MacKinnon didn’t know how to lose. It sounds crazy, but losing is a thing you have to learn. Obviously, the loss itself is nothing that demands to be learned. The thing you need to learn is how to play through it — how to play through a losing streak, a scoring slump or anything the like, while remaining confident, and finding a way out of it.

MacKinnon now had that experience, and the next season will be crucial. It may be another year of fighting for a playoff spot and eventually losing it. But it is the time for MacKinnon to show who he really is and who he can become. If he does just that, there is no doubt that he can join the ranks of Tyler Seguin, Corey Perry, Steven Stamkos — and maybe even Sidney Crosby.

What is your projection for Nathan MacKinnon? Let us know in the comments!

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