Colorado Avalanche Center Nathan MacKinnon Needs to End Year Strong

Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports /

The Colorado Avalanche aren’t getting enough from Nathan MacKinnon this year. He needs to finish the season strong, to bring some confidence into next season.

The Colorado Avalanche realistically haven’t gotten enough from Nathan MacKinnon since his rookie season. However, now it’s really time for him to start stepping up and becoming the player they foresaw when they drafted him No. 1 overall.

In other words, he needs to start putting home points at a per game pace. He’s yet to eclipse his freshman season point total, and he’s now on the verge of completing his fourth season in the NHL.

Fortunately for MacKinnon and the Avs, there are a lot of examples of top ten picks starting slow, and then turning it on.

For example, Jack Eichel — drafted No. 2 overall in 2015 — potted 24 goals and 56 points in his 81 game rookie season. This year, he’s missed a lot of time due to injury, but has 48 points in the 50 games he’s played.

More From Mile High Sticking: Tyson Jost and Will Butcher Set to Face Off

Mark Scheifele — drafted No. 7 overall in 2011 — started his first real bout with NHL hockey in the 2013-14 season, and had 34 points in 63 games. This season, he has 70 points in 68 games.

John Tavares started his rookie season with just 54 points in 82 games. However, by his third season he was a point per game producer, and has been consistently since then, even on bad New York Islanders’ teams.

The point is, MacK needs to provide more, plain and simple.

Making a Superstar

How do you make a superstar? You give them the right linemates, you give them the right minutes and give them the chance to win.

The linemates a player plays with are the most important part of creating that superstar. In MacKinnon’s rookie season he was playing with the likes of Paul Stastny, Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly. Even Jamie McGinn is an upgrade on the players he’s played with in recent years.

Last season, he was on the “nine line,” or “1, 2, 3 line” with Matt Duchene and Gabe Landeskog. That line played really well until it was broken up. That line needed to be broken up because that talent comprised the entirety of top six talent last season, and it couldn’t all be on one line.

This year, MacKinnon has played with Mikko Rantanen, Jarome Iginla, Rene Bourque, Sven Andrighetto, Matt Duchene, Gabe Landeskog, etc… The list goes on really because the Avs do not have enough top six talent to comprise two strong lines.

That obviously needs to change by the beginning of next season. Hopefully the pick they make in this year’s draft will go a long way toward plugging the holes they currently have in the top six.

More From Mile High Sticking: Matt Duchene’s Post-Drought Cellies

All the players mentioned at the top of the article are centers, and playmaking centers, for a reason. They’ve all seen their wings upgraded — with the exception of John Tavares — and have produced more consistently because of the upgrade.

Tavares is the only player on the list that has seen the same revolving door of wingers that MacK has. Yet, Tavares has continued to produce at a high level because he saw early career development. MacK, had that luxury in his first season, but he hasn’t had that luxury since.

For more of an example on the development of young centers, you can look to Mark Scheifele, and Jack Eichel.

Scheifele saw the inclusion of Patrik Laine on his wing, and Jack Eichel received help from Kyle Okposo this summer.

However, Nathan MacKinnon needs not only an upgrade on his wings, but an upgrade on the second line too.

Nathan MacKinnon Needs an Upgrade in the Top Six

Mikko Rantanen and Gabe Landeskog seem to be good partners for MacKinnon from here on out. However, the Avs would need to drastically upgrade their second line in order to make that line click.

If teams can apply all their pressure on just one line, then they have nothing to worry about. “Lock down the MacKinnon line and we win,” is what they would say prior to the game.

More From Mile High Sticking: All About J.T. Compher’s First NHL Goal

That can’t happen any longer, which is why Jared Bednar has strived to distribute his talent across three lines this season.

There is no way to figure out the makeup the Avs will have in their top six next season because trades are inevitable. However, the Avs need to find a way to create a top six — and preferably top nine — capable of scoring.

Finding the correct wingers for Nathan MacKinnon will go a long way toward creating a potent offense.


Quite simply, the Colorado Avalanche are not getting enough production from Nathan MacKinnon. Sure, he leads the team in points, but at this point it’d be a miracle if he reached 20 goals.

It would also be pretty surprising if he reached 50 points this season. He has yet to have a three point game this season, and that — to me at least — is ridiculous.

Also, he’s only scored 14 goals, which is just baffling. If Nathan MacKinnon is the future No. 1 center of this team, then where is he? The 2016-17 season has obviously been a massive disappointment for the Avs, but that does not mean that their stars get to take nights off.

Next: Ranking the Best and Worst Avs Moments in the Joe Louis Arena

MacKinnon needs to start establishing himself as the face of the franchise as soon as next season, and if he doesn’t, then the Avs need to find another No. 1 center.

Maybe that’s being a little too hard on the young man, but hey, this is how they make their living. We all make our living in one way or another, and when you’re considered to be the top of the crop, a lot is expected of you no matter what career you choose.

Nathan MacKinnon chose hockey as a career, and he was chosen No. 1 overall because of that career choice. Now, it’s time for him to start proving that he belongs amongst the best of the best in the NHL.