Prized rookie starting to find the twine
One year ago it was Seth Jones who was the presumed first pick in the NHL Entry Draft, not Nathan MacKinnon. The Avalanche took MacKinnon and Jones slid to the Nashville Predators at the fourth slot. While Jones has shown promise in his rookie campaign, Avalanche brass Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy surely doesn’t regret their decision to snag MacKinnon – the favorite to win the Calder Memorial Trophy as best rookie – especially in the past month. MacKinnon is emerging as a consistent goal scorer on an Avalanche team that is bound for the playoffs.
In the first 35 games of his career, MacKinnon notched seven goals. In comparison, here are the goal totals from the past three Calder winners in their first 35 games: Jonathan Huberdeau, 13; Gabriel Landeskog, six; Jeff Skinner, 12. MacKinnon’s starting goal totals don’t dazzle compared to a few of the other winners, but his production in his past 14 games is proof that he’s finding his groove in the NHL. In those 14 games since his seven goal start, MacKinnon has tallied 10 goals. In one particular stretch in that span he scored eight goals in nine games, and has had three multi-goal games in the run. Furthermore, MacKinnon is making a significant contribution on the power play. In those 14 game he’s scored five times with the man advantage and leads the team in power play goals with seven, which ranks him in the top 25 in the NHL. The Avalanche are 10th in the NHL with a power play percentage of 19.6, and MacKinnon owns one-fourth of the 28 total power play goals.
He’s only an 18-year-old rookie, but since MacKinnon debuted with the Avalanche there were a few red flags that indicated he would score more than a few goals in his career. One, he has torpedo speed. He’s so quick that he often leaves defenseman off balance and at his mercy as he charges the offensive zone. Two, he’s not afraid to shoot. He’s steadily been getting pucks on net and recording shots on goal, and it was only a matter of time before those same shots were bound for the back of the net.
Forty-nine games into the season MacKinnon’s 17 goals ties him for second on the Avalanche with Matt Duchene, and only one behind leader Ryan O’Reilly. Various injuries to Avalanche forwards has given MacKinnon more ice time and his development is now in full effect. On the eve of playing his 50th NHL game, MacKinnon, as well as the Avalanche, hope his surge continues for the remaining 33 games. If it does, he’s a lock to win the Calder and Sakic and Roy should get be praised for selecting him in the draft despite some criticism from some the hockey world.Past three Calder Memorial Trophy winners through first 49 games of career
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*Huberdeau played 48 games due to NHL lockout