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Colorado Avalanche Top 25 under 25, #1: Nathan MacKinnon


NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Nashville Predators at Colorado Avalanche Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Top 25 Under 25 is a collaboration by members of the Mile High Hockey community. Eight writers and 320 readers ranked players under the age of 25 as of September 1, 2018 in the Colorado Avalanche organization. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production against future projection to rank each player. Now, we’ll count down each of the 25 players ranked.

You’re shocked aren’t you?

Yes, Nathan MacKinnon is number one, and not just in the Top-25 Under 25 series. He’s the best on the team, and it isn’t particularly close.

Heck, he’s probably No. 2 or 3 on an NHL-wide T25U25 list.

After three good seasons (there was a bad one in there, for him at least) with the team as far as point totals go, many were wondering whether or not MacKinnon would reach his potential that made him a number one overall pick. Needless to say, he blew those doubts out of the water and sent ‘em to the moon. The statistics tell the story: MacKinnon finished ninth in goals (39), eighth in assists (58), and fifth in points (97) league-wide.

Oh, and did I mention he missed a bunch of games? Taking that into account, he finished second in points per game at 1.31 (just a hair below Connor McDavid’s 1.32).

Is that that everything though? Absolutely not. Looking at just primary points (meaning secondary assists are excluded) the best player (hot take alert) from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia totaled 77, just two behind McDavid’s league-leading 79 primary points. And yes, MacKinnon did this in 8 less games than the Edmonton’s best center.

Not only that, but MacK’s points per 60 minutes were second at 3.95, being just behind Evgeni Malkin at 3.97. But looking specifically at primary points per 60 minutes (hang with me here), Nathan MacKinnon leads the NHL by a fair margin at 3.14.

There’s quite a few more statistics to look at (MacKinnon is in the top 3 at the least in every one), but the point has been illustrated quite well: Nathan MacKinnon was the best offensive talent in the NHL last season.

Now, as earlier mentioned, it took a while for us to see MacKinnon reach his incredible potential, specifically four seasons before the breakout. Now while my doubts about him have been erased, and this season is something that I think he can and will repeat many times. However, it is a concern among some that he might not be able to at that level again, meaning he may fall to being around an 80 point player, but not much more than that.

Here’s why I disagree: there’s little statistical evidence that his season was a fluke. His point totals weren’t padded by tons of secondary assists; rather, he actually seemed to be shortchanged rather than boosted by this stat (as compared to other top players). He didn’t have a William Karlsson shooting percentage either. Sure, it was a decent bit higher than his career average (13.7 % this season compared to 9.4% career average). However, perhaps his goal-scoring ability was part of the breakout.

However it is painted though, it is clear that Nathan MacKinnon has put himself in the conversation of truly elite centers. His offensive prowess this last season was nearly unparalleled by every player in the league, and it would be a crime not to mention the way he plays the game. His speed and acceleration are among the world’s best, his puck-handling is absolutely magnificent, his playmaking ability is off the charts, and he has a pretty darn good shot to go with all of that. All told, probably the first or second most exciting player to watch in the NHL right now. We Avalanche fans have plenty more years to watch him as well.