After just one Avalanche player - forward Mikko Rantanen - clocked in on The Athletic’s Corey Pronman’s Top 100 under 25 list’s 50-100 players, fans were left awaiting the results of where their best and brightest prospects would fall among the league’s top 50 on the list.
Captain Gabriel Landeskog ended up just squeaking on to the list at 45, with Pronman citing his lack of development over the last few years as the primary reason for his low(ish) ranking.
Much higher up on the list, though, Pronman placed Nathan MacKinnon at 13 - above names like Leon Draisaitl, Johnny Gaudreau, and even high-flying Maple Leafs forward William Nylander.
Was that too high?
WHAT HE SAID
“MacKinnon is a very hard player to read. He has dynamic traits in his game, particularly his skating. He’s a player who can be leaned on to push the play forward with his speed and skill, but he hasn’t really had the big season yet we’ve been waiting for. His shot has also kept him from becoming a true top player as he gets many chances but converts at a well below-average 8.1 percent. I do believe in his ability and think it’s a matter of time before he has a season that ranks him at the top of the league.”
WHAT THAT MEANS
After four years in the NHL, MacKinnon has proven himself to be - well, a player with promise, for lack of a better term.
He’s had two seasons with over 20 goals and two with just 14 and 16 tallies, respectively, hitting 63 points as a rookie to go with two 50-point campaigns and one abysmal 38-point year.
Pronman argues that MacKinnon has consistently struggled to find accuracy behind his shot, hitting the goal totals he does based on sheer volume of chances - after all, they have to go in eventually.
The rest of his analysis is a bit murky, though, with a lot of ‘he’ll get there eventually’ but no real evidence that he’s projected upward with each passing year.
Is that wrong? A bit. MacKinnon has shown a lot of versatility to his game, managing to produce - particularly over the last two seasons - on teams that gave him little to no offensive support and disastrous systems to play in. His last year under Patrick Roy was miserable for everyone, and last year is a write-off (although he managed to put up 52 points and 53 points during those two campaigns, respectively).
Normally, a player who had put up four seasons of considerable ice time with his team’s top talents would be considered kind of what he is already. MacKinnon is in his year-22 season, no longer a teenager with an unfathomable ceiling, and he’s starting to show that maybe, this is as good as he’ll get.
Don’t underestimate what this evaluation means for Jared Bednar, though.
Corey Pronman is known for sometimes overhyping certain players (and he has yet to give much of any kind of praise to other players of note, snubbing Christian Dvorak and far underestimating the value of Matt Murray in relation to the rest of his under-25’s), but his optimism that MacKinnon still has room to grow suggests that he thinks the forward will be given the right environment to do so.
He didn’t give quite the same level of optimism for Landeskog, but did confirm that he thinks last year’s sub-40 point season was an anomaly.
If there’s any reason to still be excited about a MacKinnon breakout, he certainly didn’t give it specifically. But there’s little evidence, so far, to believe that he’s wrong; fans could expect greatness from their 2013 first overall pick rather soon.
You can read the rest of Pronman’s list here by subscribing to The Athletic.