The number of precocious newcomers to the NHL seems to increase annually, and that's made handicapping the Calder Trophy race for 2013-14 more difficult than predicting exactas. But there's something about Nathan MacKinnon's makeup. Life in the League immediately became routine for the 18-year-old Colorado Avalanche rookie, who was taken No. 1 in a fertile 2013 NHL Draft. "First time I met him I realized this is going to be a piece of cake for him on his own," Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog said. "Off the ice you can't tell he's a rookie. He's certainly one of the guys on the ice. He's gotten more and more comfortable as the season has gone along and gotten better and better and has been one our best players over the past couple of months." MacKinnon scored two goals in his NHL debut, a 6-1 win against the Anaheim Ducks on Oct. 2, and put up points in his first three games and five of six (one goal, six assists). After going pointless in his next five, MacKinnon smashed through the proverbial rookie wall to create distance in the Calder race like a thoroughbred three-quarters of the way through the regular season. His 22 goals (a team-high eight on the power play) and 45 points lead all rookies. With an assist Wednesday in a 6-4 loss to the Los Angeles Kings, MacKinnon has at least a point in nine straight games (five goals, 12 points) and 11 of 12 to power the upstart Avalanche, who finished 15th in the Western Conference last season, toward their first appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2009-10. MacKinnon made the big jump after two seasons playing in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Instead of being swallowed by a faster game, he's flourished in it. "The game is the same for sure. Hockey is hockey," MacKinnon said. "It's at a different level but everybody is just better. Fast pace is a lot of fun for sure; you don't have to overthink things or overthink plays." MacKinnon is on pace to become the first rookie to eclipse 60 points since Carolina Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner had 63 in 2010-11, and he'd be the first top pick to win the Calder since Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane accomplished the feat in 2007-08. He's not the only teenager thriving in the League, but more than anyone he's proven to be a natural for its faster pace.
Avalanche's MacKinnon leads race for Calder
NHL.com | Feb 27