A lot of stock and public attention gets put into the NHL draft and the first overall pick. Who will it be? Are the projections right? Will they have an immediate impact? The projected first overall pick is analyzed over and over again under public scrutiny until it’s not fun for anyone anymore. Last years first overall pick went to the Colorado Avalanche who used their first pick on Nathan MacKinnon and boy does that seem like a solid decision.
I’ll be honest and admit that I wasn’t sold on MacKinnon ahead of last years NHL draft. I didn’t like his game and
preferred his teammate and linemate Jonathan Drouin. To make matters worse I didn’t think MacKinnon looked good at the World Junior championships. Basically I didn’t understand the hype behind him. Boy was I wrong and I’ll be the first to admit that. Nathan MacKinnon has had one heck of a junior season and should be a shoe-in to win the Calder Trophy for the NHL’s best rookie.
MacKinnon’s rookie season did not disappoint one bit. Right from the get-go he showed he belongs in the NHL with the Avalanche and helped take the team for worst to first, literally. He racked up 63 points in a full 82 games and broke a record held by a guy named Wayne Gretzky for longest point streak as an 18 year old.
Once the season ended and the post season began, Nathan MacKinnon only rose to the top yet again racking up 7 points in his first 2 playoff games breaking yet another record. This time he broke the record for most points in a players first two career playoff games. MacKinnon has been on fire in his rookie year and although you can’t really compare him this early in his career, one could make the argue he’s been the best first overall pick since Steven Stamkos.
It’s fairly safe to say that MacKinnon has had a better rookie impact than Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov. One could argue that John Tavares was a solid first overall pick for the Islanders, however he didn’t have as good as a rookie, nor did led his team immediately back into the postseason. Tavares has developed into a stellar forward and a great leader for the Islanders, however based on rookie season and immediate impact the edge has to go to Nathan MacKinnon no?
His strong play also earned him praise from the legendary broadcaster Don Cherry stating that “he is a horse and has arrived.” The great thing about MacKinnon is the fact you can see his passion, hunger and dedication in the way he plays. He doesn’t rest on the face he’s 18 and the former first overall pick, he plays every shift hard hoping to improve his game and help his team win. However, it may be a bit of a stretch to say MacKinnon has arrived. If he continues at a similar or better pace then his rookie season then the Avalanche may end up with a Sidney Crosby type, but it’s far too early for that comparison.
It’s easy to forget that MacKinnon is just 18 when he steps on the ice. In the rookie race alone he competed against guys who were 5 years older than him and he still beat them in both goals and points. He’s been unstoppable in the tough Western Conference.
It’s been an incredible and memorable rookie season for Nathan MacKinnon who may just be the best first round pick since Steven Stamkos. His scoring and passion for the game is unparalleled and he’s helped take the Avalanche to the next level.