With the season for the Colorado Avalanche complete, it’s time to take a look back at the individual players and how they performed.
Next up is some guy named Nathan MacKinnon.
Let’s take a look at his numbers from this season.
Goals: 42 (career high)
Assists: 69 (career high)
Points: 111 (career high)
TOI: 22:19 per game (second among forwards in NHL)
So that Nathan MacKinnon guy? Yeah, he’s good. Really good. If you thought a Stanley Cup ring would make him a little less intense, you thought wrong. He’s wired differently, and that’s what makes him so good.
And in the second half of the year, you could make an argument he was the best player in the NHL. Yes, better than Connor McDavid.
Before his injury on Dec. 5, he was racking up shots on goal but struggled to actually find the back of the net. He left the lineup with eight goals, and finished with 42. That should tell you all you need to know about what he did in the second half.
Once he returned on Dec. 31, he was a man on a mission. He scored 34 goals in the last 48 games of the season. You read that correctly. That’s a 58 goal pace over the course of a full year. What was most impressive is that a large portion of the damage he did this season came at even strength.
MacKinnon was the only player in the NHL to average over a point-per-game at even strength, as he finished with 77 points in 71 games. That shows you just how dominant he was at even strength. The next closest player to hitting that mark was David Pastrnak, who had 76 points in 82 games when it was all even.
What is there to say about MacKinnon’s year? He did a lot of it away from Mikko Rantanen, spending a lot of time with Artturi Lehkonen, Evan Rodrigues, and others. That’s what makes it so impressive. And when you talk to his peers, they talk about how difficult he is to play against. Back in March, I asked some of his current teammates what it’s like to face him head-to-head.
“I think he’s the hardest player to defend in the league,” Lars Eller said.
He certainly proved that this year.
Some of his best moments? Hard to forget when he hit the 100 point mark in dramatic fashion. Or MacKinnon putting the team on his back in the final game of the regular season, helping the Avalanche win the Central Division.
Before this year, the highest point-per-game rate of any Avalanche player ever was Joe Sakic, who hit 1.46 back in 1995-96. MacKinnon obliterated that, finishing at 1.56. A truly dominant regular season.
In the playoffs, he was one of the few players on the team who could create anything. He dominated in Game Three, helping the team pick up the victory. Unfortunately, he and Rantanen could not carry the offense alone, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.
The first round has been tracked. I wanted to do a blog post on it but fell behind & want to get up to date on the second round by Friday, so here's some general thoughts/observations:
– Star players showed up when it mattered, even in losses. pic.twitter.com/kdNiZxf4Sw
— Corey Sznajder (@ShutdownLine) May 10, 2023
Colorado forwards ranked by scoring chances created per 60 in the first round.
— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) May 5, 2023
Season Grade: A
How could it be anything else? The only argument would be for an A+, but even Nate probably wouldn’t give himself that with the season ending earlier than expected (not that it was his fault).
After January 1, he finished with only four less points than Connor McDavid (81 to 77), but 17 more than the Oilers star at even strength. He put the team on his back and willed them to the Central Division title, but you can’t win in the playoffs with just a few players creating all the offense. Next year, he’ll become the highest paid player in the NHL. He held up his end of the bargain this year. Now, it’s up to the Avalanche organization to build around him and the rest of the core while he’s still in his prime. He’s hungry and ready to win some more.