Colorado Avalanche superstar center Nathan MacKinnon has already played over 500 NHL games at only 24. He’s having an excellent career.
The Colorado Avalanche’s superstar forward Nathan Raymond MacKinnon has been in the league for 500 games. This is his seventh season and he’s only 24. Let’s take a look back at the past 500 games and see what we can expect from the next 500.
Drafted first overall in 2013, due to the Avalanche’s poor, shortened 2012-13 season (16-25-7; 39 Points), MacKinnon was a part of the new hope being injected into the team. With the promotion of Gabe Landeskog to the position of youngest Captain in the league to that point and Semyon Varlamov making his debut in net for the Avalanche in 2012, MacKinnon joined a team that had also recently acquired Patrick Roy as head coach and seen Joe Sakic take more control in the front office, though he shared GM duties with Roy.
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MacKinnon is the first number 1 pick in the history of the Colorado Avalanche. Gabriel Landeskog was their previous highest pick at number 2. Of course, the Avalanche weren’t always the Avalanche. While in Quebec, the Nordiques chose the first overall pick THREE YEARS STRAIGHT! (Mats Sundin, 1989; Owen Nolan; 1990; Eric Lindros; 1991)
MacKinnon came to the Avalanche from the Halifax Mooseheads in Nova Scotia, Canada. His home town of Cole Harbour is a half hour drive from his Major Junior Hockey Team. Oh and he’s still not the most famous player to come from there – everyone keeps talking about some guy called Crosby
MacK burst onto the scene during the why not us season, scoring two assists versus the Anaheim Ducks on October 2nd – also his NHL debut. Jeremy Lambert took note on Mile High Sticking
After that, fans would have to wait 10 more days to see the first puck in the net from the teenager, as he buried a feed from Paul Stastny on the powerplay in the slot. Not really his trademark scoring spot these days, but it was still a very nice goal.
Now, that season he ended up with some pretty sweet numbers – in 82 games played, he scored 24 goals, added 39 assists and was a +20 rating. He was voted into first place for the Calder Memorial Trophy
On a side note, does somebody want to compare those numbers to Cale and tell me that a blueliner with similar stats does not deserve the Calder?
Three lean seasons followed his Calder-winning campaign. The amount of hardware thrown at the Avalanche after that season was incredible and the weight of it all probably dragged them back a notch or two. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.
A change of coaches and a disastrous season in 2016-17 has been well documented. Some people who know nothing about hockey started using the word “bust” in the same sentence as Nate the Great. Fortunately, it was no-one who knew Colorado Hockey. There was a light at the end of the tunnel and boy, was it bright!
In September 2017, MacKinnon reported to training camp on a mission. He, like most of the guys was determined to put the 48 point gong show in his rear view mirror. The first 10 games were a drag for number 29, with the trade winds continuing to swirl around Matt Duchene, the media relentlessly calling Jared Bednar a useless coach and Joe Sakic a worthless GM.
Then it happened.
MacKinnon started to lead the team. On October 28th, against the Chicago Blackhawks, he recorded two goals and an assist as the Avs won 6-3. Not much? His stats through the first 10 games were 1 goal and 4 assists, with three assists coming on the powerplay. Suddenly, he had a spark and over the next 13 games, he was scoring at a ridiculous pace – 23 points, moving him to a point per game through the end of November.
Sakic pulling the trigger and sending Duchene to Ottawa freed up some ice time for MacKinnon and he utilised it fully: His monthly tallies of 18 in December; 15 in January; 10 in February; 22 in March and 4 in April left him with a healthy 97 points (39 goals; 58 Assists) and led the team to the playoffs against the Nashville Predators. Every mainstream media outlet proceeded to write off the Avalanche, most predicting a sweep. MacK and the rest of the Avs at least made an entertaining series out of it, eventually losing in 6 games, with number 29 picking up 6 points in his 6 games.
In the past two and a half seasons, MacKinnon has taken his game to a new level, as we can see here:
Games Played: 500
Average Season (First 500 games)
Average Season (First 4 seasons)
Average season (2017-18 onwards)
Yes, the average points per season in 2017-present indicates new career highs, but this half season he has played so far, MacK is on pace to destroy his old career highs. Has the kid found another gear? You bet he has!
Through his first 500 games, Mats Sundin was scoring at a point per game with the Nordiques and Maple Leafs. I almost wish they hadn’t traded him, but more on that at another time. Sundin had already recorded what would eventually be his career high – 114 points in 80 games for the Nordiques in 1992, but he was a very dependable scorer, with 15 seasons of 70+ points.
Owen Nolan played about as coarse of a gritty game as you can get. Maybe not Tiger Williams gritty, but he had quite a few penalties during his tenure. It’s a coin toss between Quebec and San Jose for his better years and his goal scoring is about level with MacKinnon for the first 500 games. MacK has the jump on assists though.
Eric Lindros will be remembered by the Avalanche faithful as the man who brought Peter Forsberg to town. No two ways about it. Most of Lindros’ career was played in the first 500 games, as concussions cut his career to a mere 760 games, in which he amassed 865 points. MacKinnon is still working out the darker years that way, but he is approaching a point per game for his overall career numbers. Concussions are nasty and I hate seeing guys get hurt.
In 7 and a half seasons with the Avalanche, Nate has played the 13th most games in an Avalanche sweater. Add in the Nordiques days and he’s the 21st most experienced player that the franchise has produced. That still leaves him three Stastnys to pass, though Paul is one of those names that could be eclipsed by the end of the regular season.
For goals, he sits at 5th for the Avalanche and 8th in the franchise record books, with 181 pucks to the twine. His Captain Gabriel Landeskog is the next target at 290, so that battle may go on for a while longer yet. Assists-wise, the story is similar – 6th & 10th respectively, with 286. Paul Stastny is on 298, currently occupying 9th place.
Total points is looking similar to the above two (shockingly), with MacKinnon holding 8th place overall so far, with 467 points. Alex Tanguay is next to be passed, on 488 and that will leave our man sitting in that position for at least a little while, as Anton Stastny sits in 6th place with 636 points. 169 points is a long way off right now, but that assault will be fun to watch.
A fun stat to keep track of is points per game. For their entire careers, only 6 players in the history of the Nordiques / Avalanche have managed 1 or more points per game. MacKinnon is currently at 0.94 – with the way he is scoring, I cannot see it being too long before we have a seventh member of that list.
When we drafted him, I said that this guy was the future of the franchise. I was so pleased to get him, knowing full well that the front office could build a team around him. 500 games in and he is proving this to be the case. I, for one, am really looking forward to seeing what the second 500 games of his career look like
These statistics were accurate as of his 500th game against the New York Rangers on the 7th of January.
Why did I wait so long to write this post? Well, January 25th is Burns Night – a Scottish tradition dating back two hundred years. Since MacKinnon is from Nova Scotia (literally New Scotland), Canada and the clam MacKinnon has lands in Scotland, I think that it’s fair to raise a wee dram (a little drink, usually of Scotch Whisky) to our young man, who, let’s face it, deserves very real consideration for the Hart Trophy.