Avs' Nathan MacKinnon Dazzles On World Stage, Poised For Breakout Season

Avs' Nathan MacKinnon Dazzles On World Stage, Poised For Breakout Season
Photo: © Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports
International tournaments can occasionally serve as a coming-out stage for some of hockey's future stars, and Nathan MacKinnon is shining during Team Canada's undefeated start to the 2017 World Championship.

In four games, MacKinnon's five goals pace the tournament while his eight points are second among all skaters.

After a scoreless first game against the Czechs on May 5, he registered a hat trick and an assist in Sunday's win over Slovenia. A day later, the center scored two more goals and an assist versus Belarus and another assist against France on Thursday.

Canada has three more games left against Switzerland, Norway, and Finland before the start of the elimination round on May 18.

The soon-to-be 22-year-old will be entering his fifth season with Colorado Avalanche this October. The Avalanche went 22-56-4 in 2016-17, which was not only the worst season in franchise history but also the worst for an NHL team during the salary cap era.

MacKinnon was drafted first overall by Colorado in 2013 and burst onto the scene with 24 goals, 39 assists, and 63 points in 82 games. His stellar play helped vault the a surprising Avalanche team to 52-22-8 record and the top spot in the daunting Central Division. In seven playoff games, the rookie added another two goals and eight assists.

The Halifax native won the Calder Memorial Trophy as the top rookie in his class by a landslide, earning 130 of a possible 137 first-place votes.

In MacKinnon's second year, Colorado struggled to repeat the success of 2013-14, and he had a sophomore slump that saw him score just 14 goals and 38 points in 64 games before breaking his foot toward the end of the season.

Teammates Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog have struggled to live up to their high-end draft positions in recent years and a lack of other game-breaking talent has hindered MacKinnon's play.

But the strong development of prospect Mikko Rantanen and the late-season additions of Sven Andrighetto and prospect Tyson Jost could be the light at the end of the tunnel.

Add to the mix the bounce-back play of Tyson Barrie for Canada -- prior to his injury -- and the Avalanche's fourth-overall pick in this June's draft and reinforcements are on the horizon in Denver.

MacKinnon has the whole package needed to dominate in the modern NHL, and at just 22, he has a long career ahead of him. He seems to be just one hot streak away from not looking back.

Have a question or a comment for Jacob Messing? You can find him on Twitter @JMessing23.
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