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MacKinnon for Calder: The NHL’s Next Big Thing Has Arrived

by Vinny DeLillo | Posted on Monday, March 17th, 2014
Nathan MacKinnon is the NHL's newest rookie phenom (Karl Gehring/Denver Post)

Nathan MacKinnon is the NHL’s newest rookie phenom (Karl Gehring/Denver Post)

Nathan MacKinnon couldn’t have drawn up a better rookie season.

The 18 year-old native of Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia was labeled a hockey prodigy early in his playing career.  As a 16 year-old in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, he dazzled coaches and fellow players alike, scoring over 30 goals in each of his two years with the Halifax Mooseheads.

While playing with Halifax in 2011, MacKinnon attracted the attention of (then) Quebec Ramparts head coach, and former NHL goaltender, Patrick Roy.  It wouldn’t be the last time the two crossed paths.

Two years later, Roy found himself once again behind the bench, this time with his former team, the Colorado Avalanche.  Coming off of a disastrous 2012, the Avalanche were awarded the 1st overall pick in June’s 2013 NHL Entry Draft.  Roy’s first order of business?  Drafting his old nemesis MacKinnon, and setting the wheels in motion for a record-breaking rookie campaign.

MacKinnon hasn’t looked back since last summer.  His goals (22), assists (30) and total points (52) are all tops amongst rookie skaters.  And although he cannot claim complete credit for Colorado’s massive turnaround this year (currently 2nd in the Central Division of the Western Conference), he has certainly been a huge part of it.

Recently, he broke Wayne Gretzky’s record for longest point streak for an 18 year-old with, tallying at least a point in 13 straight contests.  The record had previously stood since the 1979-1980 season.

The way MacKinnon has been producing, a 30-goal season is certainly not out of the question.  He’s eclipsed over 20 minutes of ice time in four of the Avalanche’s last six contests and will continue to see a good amount of minutes for the remainder of the season.

Should he hit 30 goals, he’ll join some elite company.  In the last 20 years, only four other rookies have scored 30 times in their inaugural season: Sidney Crosby, Jeff Skinner, Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin.

Barring any unforeseen injuries, MacKinnon is almost universally considered a lock to come away with the Calder Trophy this year, awarded to the NHL’s top skating rookie.  He’s already shattered the season long numbers recorded by last year’s winner, Jonathan Huberdeau of the Florida Panthers.

With the Avalanche setting their sites on the 2014 post-season and MacKinnon almost surely coming away with some hardware, it’s no wonder why he’s viewed by many as the next big thing in the NHL.

 

 

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