Las Vegas Hockey: Nathan MacKinnon Impresses

The World Cup of Hockey is in pre-tournament mode and I am watching with dreams of a future Las Vegas Hockey playing roster. The national teams have finished their brief pre-tournament camps and are taking on some early practice games to prepare for the real games. After watching the first game between Team North America and Team Europe I have to admit, I am developing a

Sep 8, 2016; Quebec City, Quebec, Canada; Team North America goalie Matt Murray (30) makes a save against Team Europe during the first period of the World Cup of Hockey pre-tournament game at Videotron Centre. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

First reaction of this first game? Wow, but Team North America can skate! Nathan MacKinnon was the sharp point of a display of speed, creativity and a bit of an edge. Team Europe was looking to be a big level down from the North American side. Part of that could have been some travel legs. Team Europe did their initial training camp in Europe before traveling to Canada for the pre-tournament games.

Also the makeup of the two teams are different. Team North America is a “Young Guns” Under-23 team taken from the USA and Canada. The team has speed and energy, but appears a bit thin to compete with the big national teams like USA and Canada. Yet forward MacKinnon and netminder Matt Murray look to be game changers, making the team dangerous to other National Teams in the mix.

Team Europe is more of the odd man out group from the European teams. Older, wiser but guys that are on the cusp of international rosters.

NATHAN MACKINNON

MacKinnon is a 21-year-old Cannuck who is in the Colorado Avalanche stable. He scored a brace of goals, opening and closing the scoring on a 4-0 whipping on Team Europe. He also showed great speed and some incisive passing. Nothing new there, Nathan MacKinnon was the youngest player in NHL history to win the Calder Trophy as top rookie. He led all first-year players with 63 points, including 24 goals, at age 18.

ENTRY DRAFT IMPLICATIONS

I suspect Colorado is happy with that Entry Draft pick. I also expect that there is very little chance that Colorado will leave Nathan MacKinnon unprotected in the 2017 Expansion Draft.

The lone scenario? Colorado is bumping at the salary cap. They have an embarrassment of riches for forwards both on the main team as well as up and comers on their non-roster contracts. If a few of the developmental players look ready to come to the big show, the Avalanche will be looking to slice a cap-hefty salary, like Nathan MacKinnon’s $5 million a year.

Maybe. In reality there are others on the Avalanche roster that are less impact and older, and still have hefty contracts. However the most attractive option for dangling in an entry draft are the likes of 39-year-old Jarome Iginla, But his contract puts him in the automatically protected category with a no movement clause. More likely to be left unprotected are lesser lights like John Mitchell or Cody McLeod.

Still, Nathan MacKinnon is the type of dream you want to see on our Las Vegas Hockey team.