One of Nova Scotia’s greatest hockey exports is Nathan MacKinnon, who was taken first overall in 2013 by the Colorado Avalanche in the NHL Entry Draft. The native of Springhill played minor hockey in Cole Harbour, the hometown of his friend Sidney Crosby. MacKinnon played his junior hockey in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with the Halifax Mooseheads and joined the club when he was just 16 years old. He helped Halifax win the 2013 Memorial Cup and was named the tournament’s MVP and made the First All-Star Team by scoring 13 points in just four games.
MacKinnon made his NHL debut later that year as he suited up with Colorado to start the 2013/14 season, becoming the franchise’s youngest ever regular-season player. He then became the youngest NHL player to score two consecutive two-goal games to break the milestone previously held by Winnipeg Jets’ great Dale Hawerchuk. The six-foot, 205 lb center also posted a 13-game consecutive point streak during the season to set another record for an 18 year old, this time breaking Wayne Gretzky’s mark. MacKinnon led the league in rookie scoring with 63 points on 24 goals and 39 assists and then scored seven points in Colorado’s first two postseason games.
It wasn’t surprising when MacKinnon was named to the All-Rookie Team and rewarded with the Calder Memorial Trophy as the league’s best first-year player. At the time, he was the youngest player ever to capture the Calder award. He played just 64 games the next season due to injury and his production fell to 14 goals and 34 assists. MacKinnon managed to dress in 72 contests in 2015/16 and recorded 21 goals and 31 assists. In the summer of 2016 he was a restricted free agent and inked a new deal with the Avalanche for $44.1 million over seven years. Just before the 2017/18 campaign faced off he was named an alternate captain by the Avalanche.
MacKinnon managed to stay healthy and played in all 82 games with Colorado in 2016/17, but the team missed the playoffs for the third straight year. His production was also somewhat disappointing as he notched just 16 goals and 37 assists for 53 points. However, he bounced back with a career year in 2017/18 as he reeled off career highs of 39 goals and 58 assists for 97 points in 74 games. MacKinnon’s performance helped the Avalanche reach the playoffs and scored three goals and three assists in six postseason contests.
He was also named to the Second All-Star Team and nominated for both the Hart Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award as the league’s most valuable and outstanding player respectively. The skilled center finished fifth in goals, ninth in assists and second in points in the NHL scoring race in 2017/18. He was second in even-strength goals with 27 and his 12 game-winners also led the league. He ranked fifth in goals-per game, sixth in assists-per game and second in points-per game.
MacKinnon has represented Canada at several international events and won a gold medal at the 2015 World Championships and a silver two years later. He also played in the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge with Canada Atlantic and at the World Junior Hockey Championships and the World Cup of Hockey with Team North America .
While MacKinnon has dabbled in acting and has appeared in several Canadian comedy series, he should definitely continue with his hockey career. He’s a fine playmaker, lethal scorer and great skater who broke out in 2017/18 and is poised to become a legitimate NHL star.
Skating: Though some players may match him in top speed, no one in the world reaches full throttle faster than Nathan MacKinnon. Those explosive first few strides leave defenders in the dust on a nightly basis. Combined with sharp edge work, that speed allows the superstar center to manufacture opportunities out of absolutely nowhere.
Shot: MacKinnon doesn’t merely possess a cannon. He’s a lethal finisher because he’s a clever sniper. His shot selection is among the best in the game, alternating between one-time rockets, in-stride lasers and long-range, seeing-eye wristers. He has a great knack for tweaking shooting angles or taking a bit of heat off his shot in order to ensure that it gets through traffic.
Power: As a modern-day power forward, MacKinnon doesn’t necessarily bully opponents, but he’s a bull in a china shop who can stand his ground and retain possession in any situation. Thanks to his low center of gravity and core strength, he can bounce off or flatten would-be defenders with the greatest of ease. No other superstar in the sport boasts that power game.
Tunnel Vision: If MacKinnon suffers from any flaw as an offensive player, it’s that he sometimes plays too fast. His brute-force, kick-down-the-door approach can lead him straight into a bind when he’d be better off laying off the gas for a second and weighing his options.
Defense: He’s improved in this area, but he remains inconsistent in his effort level on the defensive end. Especially when his team is trailing, he’ll inch away from his assignment in hopes of jumping on a loose puck and screaming down the ice for a chance. That fickle attention to detail is particularly scary when he’s up against capable finishers.