Successful Debut for MacKinnon
The rookie became the youngest NHL player since 1944 to record two points
Maybe the only thing missing from Nathan MacKinnon's NHL debut was his first goal.
The No. 1 overall pick in this past summer's draft had quite the first game Wednesday against the Anaheim Ducks, as he had two key assists and made his presence known—with and without the puck.
After a quiet first period in which he had one shot in 5:48 of ice time, the rookie started to find his game in the second stanza.
"I figured I needed to stop thinking so hard and just react to the game and not overthink anything," he said.
After just missing on a backhand shot from the right circle and on a deflection in front, MacKinnon got in a pushing and shoving match in front of the net with Anaheim defenseman Ben Lovejoy at 9:56 of the period.
"It wasn't a fight. It was almost a fight," MacKinnon said of the incident. "It kind of just happened of the scrum, and I guess it was just part of the game."
MacKinnon said he doesn't mind getting a little physical on the ice if needed.
“I am used to it. Obviously, these guys are bigger and stronger… but through junior last year, especially in the playoffs, our line was keyed on and we took some shots," MacKinnon said of the physical play, especially late in the third period. "I like that stuff, I don’t mind that at all and its better hockey and it’s all worth it for sure.”
Both players received matching roughing penalties, but as MacKinnon was heading to the penalty box, he was greeted with cheers from fans who enjoyed watching the intensity he was showing.
MacKinnon, though, was just getting started.
Two shifts after leaving the box, MacKinnon made a beautiful backhand pass along the end wall, through a defender's legs, and to the stick of Jamie McGinn, who scored to give Colorado a 4-0 lead.
MacKinnon and McGinn hooked up again midway through the final period when he made a similar play. MacKinnon took a pass from PA Parenteau at the low right side and flipped it to the slot for McGinn, who quickly threw the puck to the back of the cage.
"A couple of great plays by [Alex Tanguay] and PA to start the play and Ginner has the soft touch right now," MacKinnon said. "I think we are building chemistry, and hopefully it will continue Friday night."
With his two points and at the age of 18 years and 31 days, MacKinnon became the youngest NHL player to record two or more points in a game since Ted Kennedy (18 years, 27 days) had a goal and three assists in the Toronto Maple Leafs' 12-3 win over the Boston Bruins on Jan. 8, 1944.
Head coach Patrick Roy, who said prior to the game that he had no expectations for MacKinnon in his first game, seemed to have come away pleased.
"Play-wise, I thought he was fantastic," Roy said. "The first goal (he assisted), he made a great play to bring it in front and McGinn scored on that one. On the second one (he assisted), Parenteau did a super job going first in the corner, made a nice pass to him and there are not too many guys that can see a player from behind, and the play he made there—and he is 18 years old, let's not forget that—was fantastic."
The only downside of MacKinnon's game came in the faceoff circle, where he went 2 of 12 in draws.
That stat is something that MacKinnon was quite aware of after the game
"I was terrible in the faceoff circle; I know that," MacKinnon said. "I think I was watching their sticks a little more than the ref's hand, and I'll get used to that."
Overall, not a bad night for the Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia native and one he wouldn't mind re-living.
"I wish I could have done that again," MacKinnon said. "It was an unbelievable game and it was a lot of fun."