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Nathan MacKinnon has turned the Colorado Avalanche into an offensive giant

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MacKinnon has transformed into the favorite to win the Hart Trophy

NHL: New York Rangers at Colorado Avalanche Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

When the Colorado Avalanche traded away Matt Duchene, they were moving one of their most explosive offensive players. Not only were they trading away an elite offensive talent, they were doing in in exchange for a 19-year old defenseman and a group of futures. It looked like a step backwards offensively to build for the future.

Things didn’t exactly go the way many had thought.

Since the Duchene trade, the Colorado Avalanche have scored the fifth most goals in the NHL with only the New York Islanders and the Boston Bruins scoring more on a per-game basis.

A team that looked like they didn't have much in the way of secondary scoring - accentuated by a lack of a second line center - has now become one of the most explosive teams in the NHL.

How?

A kid from Nova Scotia.

The line of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog has turned into one of the best in the league. Maybe, MAYBE the big-three in Boston can be called the best trio in hockey, but Colorado's top line is up there.

Since the trade on November 6, 2017, no one is close to MacKinnon’s point production. He has 45 points in 31 games - that’s six more points than John Tavares, who sits in second and has played two more games.

What’s most impressive is that he’s doing it at even strength during that span MacKinnon's 1.06 5v5 goals per game is second only to Brad Marchand.

With Mikko Rantanen as the perfect partner in crime, MacKinnon is a legitimate threat to score on every single shift.

This season, Nathan MacKinnon leads the NHL in 5v5 points and primary points. He’s put the Colorado Avalanche on his back and is carrying them to a playoff spot. The former #1 overall pick is having the breakout season everyone was waiting for.

The Avalanche are fun to watch for the first time in a long while. The team is playing their best hockey in more than a decade - even with key players like Tyson Barrie and Semyon Varlamov out of the lineup

Over the past month, Rantanen, Erik Johnson and Jonathan Bernier have put forward incredible, elite-level performances, but it’s MacKinnon that has been the pulse of the team.

It took a while, but the 22-year old is finally getting the recognition around the league he deserves - and all it took was a nine-game winning streak. Not only has MacKinnon thrust himself into the Hart Trophy conversation, but he has become the stand-alone favorite as we approach February.

They were horrendously bad last season, but now the Colorado Avalanche are actually good - and Nathan MacKinnon deserves most of the credit for it.