Colorado Avalanche Center Nathan MacKinnon Must Have Breakout Season

DENVER, CO - MARCH 29: Nathan MacKinnon
DENVER, CO - MARCH 29: Nathan MacKinnon /

Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon must have a breakout season that sees him recording more than his rookie year points — and that can help carry the team.

To date, center Nathan MacKinnon is still the Colorado Avalanche’s only first-overall draft pick. The Avs chose MacKinnon in the 2013 NHL Draft.

Mackinnon came in like gangbusters his rookie season, making the opening night roster right out of camp. He proceeded to win the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year by recording 24 goals and 39 assists for 63 points.

He’s never matched those numbers again. To date, here are his statistics:

Thus far, MacKinnon is looking to be a 20 or under goal scorer and around 50-point player. That’s not what you expect out of a first-overall forward. You expect a good deal more.

You can see from the above statistics that MacKinnon was a 30-goal scorer and 70-point player in the QMJHL. That’s the kind of numbers you want out of your first-overall, supposed untouchable player at the NHL level.

Here are some scouting reports from before MacKinnon was drafted.

Hockey’s Future:

"“A blend of speed, skill and desire, MacKinnon is not solely an offensive talent, but instead he’s one of the more complete players in his draft class. While he still needs refinement in his defensive game, and he’ll continue to get stronger on the ice, his speed and willingness to throw the body makes him equally valuable at both ends of the ice. Offensively, he slices through opposing defenses like a hot knife through butter and has a quick release that often finds the back of the net.”"

What’s interesting to me is the description of MacKinnon as a complete player, one who has that will to win. I remarked on that a lot in his first couple years, that he had that will to win.

Hockey Writers:

"MacKinnon is more a shooter of the Steven Stamkos variety and has excellent, but not elite vision. Assuming MacKinnon continues to progress, his upside is that of a perennial candidate for the Rocket Richard Trophy (most goals in the season). He probably will never win the Art Ross Trophy (most points in a season). Maurice “The Rocket” Richard never won the scoring title either, but that does not diminish his legendary status.Thus, MacKinnon’s game projects to the NHL as an elite goal scorer, but he will do it as Nathan MacKinnon and not in the mold of Sidney Crosby.”"

As the Hockey Writers pointed out, MacKinnon and Crosby hail from the same town, so the comparisons are inevitable. But their games are not the same, even though they train together. (And I’m glad MacKinnon doesn’t dive like Crosby does.)

Ross MacLean, head scout for International Scouting Services:

"“A very competitive and powerful player with terrific offensive understanding and skill, MacKinnon has the ability to outskate his opponents without seemingly needing to move his feet. He has very strong offensive timing and understanding and can pick his shots very well. His ability to cut and weave with the puck is elite and he can be near impossible to contain in the offensive zone around the puck.”"

David Burstyn, director of scouting for McKeen’s Hockey:

"“Nathan MacKinnon kind of has a bull in a china shop approach to him. He’s got a great shot. He’s got this great diagonal cut in to the middle of the net. He’s a game-breaker and he’s got great speed. He’s got great power, he’s fearless and like some good players, he has a tendency to try to do too much, but I really don’t see that as being a weakness.”"

Nathan MacKinnon has high-end skills and talent, there’s no doubting that. At times, he’s had that implacable will to win. We saw only flashes of that the last couple seasons.

What’s distressing to me is that MacKinnon can disappear on the ice for whole stretches of time. Where’s that bull in the china shop? The cutting and weaving has also gotten lost.

One thing that has changed is that MacKinnon is taking on more of a leadership role. He said in a presser after the first day of training camp that being a leader is a big focus of his. He added:

"“With the young guys here, I was in their position not too long ago, so I can relate to them. I’m not going to be their dad or anything, but whatever advice they might need, I’m here.”"

To be clear, MacKinnon is 22 years old. It’s a little funny to think of his being a father figure to much of anyone.

He went on to talk about his role as an alternate captain, mentioning that he thought he’d be wearing the A full time. He also stated his role was to back the captain, Gabriel Landeskog. He went on:

"“I think Gabe’s a great leader, and I trust what he says. Everyone in the room has to follow that, and I’m here to help.”"

I’m not going to lay the fate of the Colorado Avalanche on Nathan MacKinnon’s shoulders. However, I’m going to say he can’t disappear anymore. He can’t back off his passion and spout the trite “Not the result we wanted” when the Avalanche lose. He’s Irish and has the red hair to prove it — we need to see some of that Irish fire this season.

Next: MacK Breaks Hockey with his Goal

We need to see the bullish but agile deer from MacKinnon’s rookie season.The fate of the Colorado Avalanche may not rest entirely on MacKinnon’s shoulders, but he definitely needs to lead the team into the next era.