Nathan MacKinnon has shaken off the sophomore slump with vigor this year. He already has 19 points in 17 games, putting him on pace for a 90 plus point year. In addition he is scoring at a rate of nearly a goal every other game. He’s been easily the most exciting player to watch on the Avalanche, and maybe in the entire league- and the best part is we can expect it for the entire season.
Why Nathan Mackinnon Will Continue Racking Up Goals
The best part about Nathan MacKinnon’s great success so far this year is that it’s not looking to be a hot streak — this is just who he is. For example his shooting percentage is sitting at 13.1%, which is higher than it will be at the end of the season, but not to the point where it will drop significantly. For comparison, Alex Ovechkin’s career shooting percentage is 12.3% .
The big thing is MacKinnon, despite the Avalanche’s general inability to get shots on net, is averaging 3.6 shots a game. Using a shooting percentage of 10%, which is what he was at his rookie year –and before the Montreal game — we’re looking at 295 shots this season for MacKinnon and roughly 30 goals.
I truly believe MacKinnon can hit the 30 goal mark. So, if the Avalanche right the ship in terms of shot differential, and he improves to 4.5 shots per game, it comes out to be a 37 goal season. That would have put him in a tie for 4th in the league for goals last year.
Granted 4.5 shots per game is near Ovechkin levels, who averages just over 5 shots per game in his career, and often leads the league in shots by close to triple digits. But at the same time I think there is a great chance that MacKinnon can maintain a better shooting percentage than 10 percent.
Why Nathan MacKinnon Will Continue To Get Assists
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Obviously MacKinnon makes things happen on the ice, and with Matt Duchene heating up there will be a linemate who consistently finishes (if Matt Duchene can become consistent, that’s a big if). But even without Duchene, if Nathan MacKinnon keeps putting pucks to the net he’s going to rack up assists from rebounds alone.
In addition every defenseman in the league fears his speed. Yes this means less breakaways for MacKinnon, but it also means that they are backing off to keep from getting beat, leaving Nathan with time and space to work with. Time and space are not things you want Nathan MacKinnon to have.
If teams keep backing off him on rushes, MacKinnon will have plenty of opportunities to find options on the rush and in the zone. In addition, you can guarantee the majority of the opposing team’s eyes are on Nathan with the puck, leaving Colorado players to find gaps and openings where MacKinnon will find them.
Time For Some Guarded Optimism
The most excited I try to get about the Avalanche is guarded optimism level, to keep my heart from being broken. But if Nathan MacKinnon continues to play like a superstar, and the team continues to get great goaltending from anyone, they have the tools to compete there alone. Add in a finally playing to potential Matt Duchene and a returning Alex Tanguay in a couple weeks, and I believe the Avalanche still have a chance to compete this season.
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After his impressive feat of scoring two goals in 13 seconds against the Montreal Canadiens, MacKinnon was named one of the stars of the night by NHL.com. So, yes, Nathan MacKinnon will have to carry this team into a playoff spot, but he’s carrying the team now, and I don’t see any reasons he’ll stop.