There have been many storylines to follow for the Avalanche so far this season.
Some are good. For example, the arrival of Bo Byram, who has already appeared more than capable of becoming a career top-pair D-man in the NHL.
Or look at Philipp Grubauer, who has been playing some Vezina-caliber goaltending thus far, and Sam Girard, who continues to impress night-in and night-out.
But, perhaps, there have been more not-so-great storylines than those positive ones. The rash of injuries comes to mind, as do the inconsistency issues.
But enough of that.
There’s one storyline that deserves a little more attention.
Let’s talk about Jacob MacDonald.
His story is pretty great. MacDonald actually grew up a fan of the Colorado Avalanche. Fun fact. Growing up in Portland, Oregon, his first hockey coach—who MacDonald told me taught him pretty much everything he knows about hockey—was an Avs fan, who rubbed off some of his fandom onto the impressionable young Jacob MacDonald.
Now, some 20 years later, MacDonald is playing for that very same club that inspired him to play pro hockey all those years ago.
“That was one of the first things I thought of when I pulled the sweater over my head…words can’t really describe it. You’re living your dream,” MacDonald told Colorado Hockey Now earlier this season. “[I want] to do everything I can to help this team win.”
Now, nearly a dozen games into his Avalanche career, he’s certainly been doing his part to try and help the team win this season. His teammates, and head coach Jared Bednar, can see that too.
“It’s hard to look past MacDonald on our backend; I think he’s done a great job for us,” Bednar said of which of the Colorado Eagles has impressed him this season. “You look at the minutes he’s playing and the situations he’s playing in, [and] he’s helping us in a lot of different areas for a guy who wasn’t on our initial roster.
“There’s games where those young guys are coming in and outplaying some of our veteran guys.”
In his first full month in the NHL, MacDonald has proven he’s not afraid to skate with the best of them. At times it’s hard to tell which position he plays. That, by the way, is a compliment. And to be fair, he’s played forward in the past, most recently with the Eagles last year. More than anything, though, it speaks to his growing confidence as an NHL player. He’s not afraid to just go for it every shift.
“It’s been fun to watch,” fellow Eagles and Avs teammate Jayson Megna told Colorado Hockey Now on Tuesday. “He’s such a good person off the ice, too, and he puts in a lot of hardwork in the summer and at practice and in the weight room and it’s been great to see him get this opportunity—an extended opportunity—and he’s getting more ice time here too.”
After averaging just over 14 minutes through his first half-dozen games this year, MacDonald has clearly been earning the trust of the coaching staff. Over the last half-dozen games, he’s earning an average of nearly 17 minutes per game. His plus-three is second-best on the team over the last month, and his 26 shots in just 11 games sticks out, as well.
“I feel good,” MacDonald said on Tuesday. “The biggest thing for me is the guys in the room have confidence in me, and I have confidence in myself to go out and play in those increased minutes and to just play my role. It’s been good, and a lot of fun too.”
If you are to take any positives out of the current injury-plagued situation the Avs find themselves in, it’s hard to not point at the impressive organizational depth that’s been put on display throughout the early parts of the season. MacDonald, perhaps, has stood out as the most impressive of Colorado’s depth pieces.
“To see him continue to succeed is really great,” added Megna. “A lot of guys are happy for him.”
From Portland, Oregon, to Iowa and Ithaca, to Massachusetts and Miami; and from the collegiate ranks to the ECHL, the AHL and now NHL, MacDonald has certainly been around the block. It’s been a journey…and a journey that’s taken him full-circle.
From getting his first replica Burgundy and Blue Avalanche jersey at the age of seven to now wearing the authentic, NHL-issued Burgundy and Blue, it’s hard to not appreciate the storyline.
And judging the way Jacob MacDonald has been playing so far this season, it’s hard to imagine him taking off the Burgundy and Blue anytime soon.