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Avalanche fans should expect a breakout season from Nathan MacKinnon

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At 22, it’s time for MacKinnon to establish himself as a force for the Colorado Avalanche

Colorado Avalanche v Calgary Flames Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images

When Nathan MacKinnon broke into the NHL, it looked like the Colorado Avalanche had a bonafide superstar on their hands. As a Calder winning rookie, Mackinnon finished the 2013-14 season with 24 goals and 63 points - totals that he has not been able to get back to.

Like the rest of the team, MacKinnon’s performance over the past two seasons has been disappointing for most Avs fans. That said, with some better luck and the emergence of Mikko Rantanen riding shot gun, there’s no reason to think MacKinnon won’t take a big leap in production this season.

Playing in an expanded role in coach Bednar’s system, MacKinnon led the team in scoring while putting up only 16 goals and 53 points. Playing with the highest time-on-ice of his career, MacKinnon also played in less of an offensive role than he ever had.

Nathan MacKinnon Possession Metrics

Season GP CF CA CF% CF% rel oiSH% oiSV% PDO oZS%
Season GP CF CA CF% CF% rel oiSH% oiSV% PDO oZS%
2013-14 82 1425 1329 51.7 5.7 11.9 93 104.9 58.7
2014-15 64 1162 970 54.5 14 8.1 90.5 98.6 57.2
2015-16 72 1425 1300 52.3 11.1 9.6 90.9 100.6 64.7
2016-17 82 1707 1496 53.3 7.3 9 88.7 97.6 55.3
Career 300 5719 5095 52.9 9.7 9.7 90.7 100.4 58.8
Stats from hockey-reference.com

His 55.3 oZS% is the lowest of his career, showing that while he is still being deployed in more of an offensive role, Bednar didn’t feel it necessary to shelter him as heavily as Roy had been in previous seasons.

Nathan MacKinnon is a high-end offensive forward. He doesn’t score at a level you would like to see from your team’s #1 center, but his primary assist rate and shot generation are at or above the league average for the top centermen in the NHL - and they’re only getting better.

Nathan MacKinnon HERO Chart from ownthepuck.blogspot.com/

MacKinnon’s biggest downfall has always been his shooting percentage. He’s never shot up to the league average. While it’s always been pretty bad, last season saw an incredibly low scoring rate for the newly turned 22-year old. His sh% fell all the way to 6.4% - a rate that is almost certainly going to jump up this season simply thanks to the laws of probability.

2013 Draft Class Sh%

Player 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 Career
Player 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 Career
Nathan MacKinnon 10.0 7.3 8.6 6.4 8.1
Sasha Barkov 9.2 13.0 16.4 14.8 14.0
Sean Monahan 15.7 16.2 13.7 13.6 14.7
Jonathan Drouin 5.3 16.0 11.5 10.2
Bo Horvat 14 10.3 12.7 12.1
Alexander Wennberg 4.7 8.2 11.9 8.6
Andre Burakovsky 13.8 13.5 10.8 12.6

When Nathan MacKinnon was selected first overall in the 2013 Entry Draft, he was viewed as the consensus top prospect. Since then, he has proven to be one of the top players from that draft class - despite his struggles. His 206 career points trail only Sean Monahan (217) among his draft peers and he’s produced that while shooting significantly worse than his peers.

The best sign for those waiting for a breakout for MacKinnon, is the frequency at which he gets the puck on the net.

During the 2016-17 season, MacKinnon finished 17th in the league in shots on net. He was even better in 5v5 situations - where he finished 14th league wide. With the number of shots he was getting last year, MacKinnon would have only needed to shoot 10% in order to hit the 25 goal mark - a big improvement on his performance, but still a figure that is below the league average.

At the rate he generates shot attempts, MacKinnon is a player that should score a lot more often. Counting on him for 25 goals a season is not at all unreasonable. Add that to his elite playmaking ability and you’ve got a player that should be leading the team in scoring for the next decade.

Last season, he led a bad team - that’s easy - what MacKinnon will have to do going forward is lead a team as it improves. Work with the high-end talent of guys like Rantanen and Jost and be their leader. He needs to use the talent around him to take the next step in his development, but more importantly, he has to be the one to make those good players great.

The best offensive players are the ones that are able to not only produce for themselves, but for their linemate. Nathan MacKinnon has that ability and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see it come through in a big way this season.

Poll

How many points do you expect from Nathan MacKinnon this season?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    <50
    (10 votes)
  • 12%
    50-59
    (31 votes)
  • 44%
    60-69
    (113 votes)
  • 27%
    70-79
    (71 votes)
  • 12%
    80+
    (31 votes)
256 votes total Vote Now