DENVER (CBS4) – Before the Olympic break, the Colorado Avalanche’s fast skating rookie Nathan MacKinnon started getting a really hot stick. He tallied seven goals and eight assists in his last 11 games.
If the Avalanche’s season ended right now, the 18-year-old would be first among goal scorers on the team.
MacKinnon told CBS4’s Vic Lombardi on Xfinity Monday Live he remembers scoring his first NHL goal fondly. It came on a power play in the Avalanche’s 5-1 win over the Washington Capitals on Oct. 12.
“I remember kind of tucking behind that forward in the power play,” said MacKinnon, who jumped up on the boards after the goal. “I took some heat for my celebration from the boys. I don’t usually do that, but I was pretty excited and it was definitely one of my most favorite goals I’ve ever scored.”
Since that first goal, MacKinnon hasn’t looked back. He currently leads the team with 22, and leads all rookies in scoring with 44 points.
MacKinnon was the No. 1 pick of the draft, and he’s certainly showing the kind of skills team executive Joe Sakic and Coach Patrick Roy saw in the center when they were considering him for their pick.
“It was pretty special,” MacKinnon said of his draft experience. “The look on my family’s faces was something I’ll never forget.”
MacKinnon was only 6 when the Avalanche won their second Stanley Cup title in 2001, and he’s a little young to remember seeing Roy and Sakic skate for the Avs. But he’s fully aware of their history.
“Going up on stage with Patrick and Joe — two legends — it was definitely one of the most special moments of my life to date,” he said.
MacKinnon grew up in Nova Scotia, Canada, and he actually entertained thoughts of becoming a basketball player at one point. He was “pretty good,” in his words, but hockey won out. His father is a supervisor in a job with the railroad and his mother is a city employee, and they have been coming to Denver to watch him play in some games this season.
So he’s not living with his parents here in Denver, he just graduated from high school and he’s making millions. Where to live? The team wanted to make sure that the transition to the life of a pro hockey player was easy for MacKinnon, so they have him staying in veteran goalie Jean-Sébastien Giguère’s basement.
“(Giguère) and his family were kind enough to take me into his home, and he’s been amazing for me. He’s helped me with a lot of different things, especially coming into the league as a young guy. He’s been a great mentor for me. He teaches me a lot about the game — on and off the ice — and I’m very thankful for him and his family for sure,” MacKinnon said.
CBS4 interviewed Giguère about the living arrangement — one that’s not uncommon in the NHL — and the goalie had nothing but positives to say about the rookie.
“He’s a typical teenager,” Giguère said. “Aside from the fact that he plays in the NHL he sleeps a lot and tends to be messy a little bit but he’s been great. He’s been great with the kids. I’ve got three boys and they just think it’s awesome to have him around.”
If he stays healthy, MacKinnon may have 20 years of pro hockey ahead of him. So far he says his experience as a pro has been “surreal.”
The Avalanche have 24 games left in the regular season. They face off against the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday night at the Pepsi Center.
Watch all of Nathan MacKinnon’s appearance on Xfinity Monday Live with Vic Lombardi here.