Every draft class has one - Stamkos, Tavares, Nugent-Hopkins and most recently, Nail Yakupov, have all entered their draft year as the favourite to go first overall. Every single aforementioned star forward went through the analysis, criticisms and survived challenges from other top prospects holding onto their top draft status label. The 2013 NHL Entry Draft could possibly be the year that ends this cycle of the early season favourite enduring their full draft season and becoming the top drafted player. Nathan MacKinnon tops “The Dean’s List’s” preseason draft rankings but his position will and has already been challenged by other 2013 draft prospects including franchise defender Seth Jones, Finnish sensation Aleksander Barkov and sophomore junior star Sean Monahan.
But, as of now Nathan MacKinnon remains the top-ranked player.
By now, Nathan MacKinnon is likely a hockey name most casual hockey fans are familiar with, so we might as well get his draft profile out of the way as we watch him display his elite hockey skills as he prepares to become the next NHL young star. In hockey circles, MacKinnon’s name has already tiresomely been linked to former Quebec league scoring star Sidney Crosby. Yes, MacKinnon hails from the same hometown of Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia as Sidney Patrick Crosby. Yes, Nathan MacKinnon starred for the same Shattuck St. Mary’s prep team as the Penguins’ superstar.
Both play the centre position. Both have had international success for Team Canada. And, both Crosby and MacKinnon share late birthdays entering their respected drafts as some of the youngest prospects available. Actually, Nathan MacKinnon is just two weeks removed from being eligible for the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, making his gaudy accomplishments all that more impressive. In the end, Crosby and MacKinnon do share a lot of similarities, but they are certainly different players. Comparing a young draft eligible prospect to the World’s Greatest Player in the past decade seems a bit melodramatic at this point.
The Baie-Comeau Drakkar made Nathan MacKinnon the first overall selection at the 2011 QMJHL Entry Draft but later traded him to his home province and local town of Halifax, Nova Scotia. The young maritime kid immediately began to light up the Quebec league setting the assist record for a rookie (47) en route to leading his Mooseheads team in scoring (78 points) as a 16-year-old. Adding another 28 points in 17 post-season games certainly did nothing to diminish the hype surrounding Nathan MacKinnon. Back to the Crosby comparison briefly, as impressive as MacKinnon’s QMJHL freshman season was it does not shake a stick at Crosby’s 16-year-old season when he scored 23 more goals and cleared MacKinnon’s point totals by 57 points. Again, Crosby and MacKinnon are in a different class. Not to say that MacKinnon does not possess star power but fair comparisons should be the emphasis and dubbing him “The Next Crosby” sets this fresh-faced prospect up for failure.
Despite MacKinnon admitting himself that the Crosby comparisons are unacceptable, Nathan definitely has some attributes that have scouts fancying this future franchise forward. He is a player that performs at an elite level in almost all aspects of hockey. MacKinnon is an intense competitor that loves to win giving him that “it” factor that many current NHL stars share. He is a great skater that is hard to contain at top speeds with his strong balanced skating style. The one-on-one puck skills he possesses and his exceptional on-ice vision make him a dangerous playmaker and shooter. He thinks the game quicker than his competition and that extra time allows him to execute plays for his opportunistic line-mates. Beyond elevating his game in last season’s playoffs, MacKinnon has also shown a clutch aspect of his game when he carried Team Canada in their gold medal win at the Under-18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournaments burying three goals in that championship game.
Next June in New Jersey, Nathan MacKinnon will most definitely hear his name called within the first few selections as scouts are enamoured with his offensive dominance. However, MacKinnon is beginning to show some defensive prowess as well. He has always been good enough at the defensive side of hockey but he has taken an initiative to improve in the faceoff dot. As a rookie MacKinnon’s success in the faceoff (45%) left much to be desired, but after some extra attention and work he has improved drastically. In a small sample size of eight games, MacKinnon sits third in the league in faceoff percentage (64%) and is on track to dispel talks of him being an underwhelming centerman in the dot. NHL teams love their franchise pivots and this development as a centerman proves that his value will remain as high as ever.
Early on in his draft season, MacKinnon continues to dominate offensively, sharing Halifax’s scoring lead with draft-eligible Jonathan Drouin breaking the net nine times and registering 15 points while posting a league-leading plus-11 rating. His offensive numbers should remain high all season long as Halifax projects to be one of the CHL’s strongest teams. MacKinnon is projected to appear on Team Canada’s 2013 World Junior squad later this year in Ufa, Russia giving him a chance to showcase his elite game internationally.
The second-year Halifax forward has certainly appeared in his share of highlight packages and the latest of which was this past week when he scored his ninth goal in eight contests. Prepare yourselves for this young phenom as he continues to play his own style of hockey on his way to becoming an elite fantasy hockey player.
All quoted statistical information current as of October 11, 2012 (via theqmjhl.ca)