Nathan MacKinnon: What are We Going to Do with Him?


Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon — what are we going to do with him?

Ok, it should be obvious what we’re going to do with Nathan MacKinnon as a fan base — we’re all going to watch for flashes of the brilliance he displayed his rookie year. Let’s face it, we’re probably also going to watch for flashes of the mundanity of last season.

Overall, what’s Nathan MacKinnon’s third year in the NHL going to look like?

Nathan MacKinnon’s History

Forward Nathan MacKinnon is only 20 years old and has played on just two NHL seasons. He therefore doesn’t have much of a history. His brief history is pretty amazing though.

Nathan MacKinnon had a stellar rookie season. He played all 82 games and earned 63 points (24 goals and 39 assists.) He also won the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year. At one point he broke Wayne Gretzky’s record for rookie scoring streaks.

Then last year happened. It’s too simple to say he had an awful year or that he suffered from the sophomore slump. MacKinnon played just 64 games before going down with a broken foot that ended his season.

In those 64 games Nathan MacKinnon only scored 14 goals and 24 assists. However, three of those goals came against the Tampa Bay Lightning in his first NHL hat trick. MacKinnon also earned more penalty minutes — with five of them coming after his first NHL fight and another 10 after his first NHL game misconduct.

The week before MacKinnon suffered his broken foot was a tough one. He got his nose broken, lost his roommate when Max Talbot was traded and even got benched briefly. However, in the middle of all that came the hat trick.

So, Nathan MacKinnon’s second NHL year was more complicated than just plain disappointing.

Nathan MacKinnon’s Role

The Colorado Avalanche have made no secret about what they intend for their one-two punch at center — Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon.

Thus far MacKinnon has only played center a little, mostly on the third line. He’s spent more time as a winger, first for Paul Stastny and then for Ryan O’Reilly. (Poor MacKinnon — he’s lost two regular centers already in his young career.)

This season MacKinnon is slated to play on a line with the Swedish duo of Gabriel Landeskog and new recruit Carl Soderberg. Soderberg is meant to be the centerman.

No question but that Soderberg is just a place holder until MacKinnon takes over his natural position. Can Nathan MacKinnon start earning those centerman duties as early as this season, though?

Nathan MacKinnon Interview

Nathan MacKinnon spoke with Dan Rosen of He talked a lot about his experience at IIHF Worlds. MacKinnon was one of four then-Avalanche players who won gold at the international tournament. (Ryan O’Reilly was one of them, but he’s since moved on to the Buffalo Sabres. Duchene and defenseman Tyson Barrie were the others.)

Nathan MacKinnon told Rosen about what an honor it was to play in the tourney since Canada hadn’t won it since 2007. He called Team Canada “pretty special.” You could say that. A couple games were kind of close, but for the most part the Canadians rolled through IIHF Worlds like the Russian tanks in the Prague Spring of 1968.

However, MacKinnon is pragmatic about the situation:

"“You have to remember that everybody on that team didn’t have a great season or finish to their season or else they wouldn’t be at Worlds.”"

Nathan MacKinnon admits he doesn’t want too many opportunities to play at IIHF Worlds since that means his NHL season has been shortened.

MacKinnon also explained a little bit about what he thing went… complicated with last season. Rookies don’t really know what to expect their first season. Indeed, I remember thinking MacKinnon was kind of gruff in interviews until I remembered he was an 18-year-old trying to navigate in a man’s world — and a rough world at that.

Sophomore seasons are tough if a player has had a stellar season like Nate did. “You have high expectations,” he said. This season, though, it’s all about the middle ground — or maybe Patrick Roy’s “even keel.” Nathan MacKinnon says:

"“I know what to expect. I have expectations. They’re still high. But I just feel a little different, more calm and prepared, I guess. It’s just a different mindset. It’s tough to really say what it is. I’m just more comfortable. I feel better. I know what to expect a little more.”"

Heaven knows we all have high expectations grounded with the reality of how disappointing last season was. We had Avs New Age — maybe this year will be Avs Real Age, or what this core team is really capable of.

So, what can we expect from Nathan MacKinnon this season? Hockey-wise, hopefully another stellar year. Hopefully there’s also going to be a little of this:

Next: 5 Questions for the Avs Offense

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