After a dominant performance at the memorial cup Nathan MacKinnon (who seems to prefer Nate the way Gabriel Landeskog
prefers Gabe) has moved himself back into talks for the first overall pick. Anyone who only saw the Memorial Cup and didn't see the CHL season or World Junior Championship would wonder why it is even a question as to who is the best player available in this years draft following the most dominant performance at the tournament in recent memory. MacKinnon is perceived as perhaps the most mature and most driven player out of the top three and certainly the fastest. His numbers don't blow you away the way Jonathan Drouin's do but 75 points in only 44 games is nothing to sneeze at. For those looking for a comparison Matt Duchene
put up 79 points in his last year of junior with the Brampton Battalion but it took him 57 games to hit that number.
There have been many comparisons levelled at Nathan MacKinnon over his career, the most obvious being towards fellow Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia native Sidney Crosby
. MacKinnon is not the same offensive wizard Crosby is but there are similarities. His explosiveness, for one, is a point scouts keep coming back to. He has perhaps the best straight away speed of any player in the draft, speed he used all year long to make players (including Seth Jones) look a little silly playing against him. His speed, coupled with underrated hands and a wicked shot (attributes that should remind Avs fans of Matt Duchene at that same age) make him perhaps the deadliest offensive player in the draft.
So why should the Avs draft him? MacKinnon does not address their most glaring need (defense) but he does address several others and when you finish in a position to land the first overall pick like the Avs did you need help in more than one place. For one thing MacKinnon brings blazing speed, the best straight away speed and two step acceleration of any player in the draft. When the Avs were having success back in 2010 (yes, depressing isn't it that it's been three years since the Avs had any real success) they were having success with their speed. They used their high-tempo offence to get into shooting matches with teams which didn't always work but resulted in fast paced, entertaining hockey that earned them more success than anything they've done since. MacKinnon brings more of that speed, bringing a quickness on a similar level to that of Matt Duchene. He also brings something the Avs were decidedly lacking last year: fire. MacKinnon just hates to lose and will do everything in his power to prevent his team from losing games. Last year the Avs allowed a sort of apathy to set in at one point, resulting in a very angry and very public tirade from J.S. Giguere. MacKinnon simply hasn't got it in him to be apathetic. He's a player who almost never says anything worth hearing in an interview but lets his play on the ice do the talking for him. He simply hates to lose and as such competes at the highest level every game. In that way, with his quiet, by example leadership, he reminds people as much of Jonathan Toews
as Sidney Crosby. I won't put undue pressure on the young man by comparing him to Joe Sakic
, the man who may end up drafting him, but MacKinnon's quiet leadership does remind one of Super Joe. His quickness and shot conjure up images of Sakic as well.
All told if the Avs want the best, most NHL ready player in the draft they will look to Nathan MacKinnon. It's my personal hope that this is the player they walk away from the draft with. Next time I'll take a closer look at Seth Jones of the Portland Winterhawks, a player that Avs fans have been hearing about for months.
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