Nathan MacKinnon’s First 600 Games Sets Him up to Be an All-Time Great

Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon played his 600th NHL regular-season game against the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday night. The 26-year-old was kept off the scoreboard last night, something that has become a bit of a rarity for him.

It seems inevitable that MacKinnon will go down as one of the greatest Avalanche forwards and could well be heading towards his jersey being raised to the rafters upon retirement. Some of that will be determined by how successful the team is when he is in his prime, but his points total alone is going to be enough if he keeps up the pace we are currently seeing.

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The first 600 games have led to a very even look so far, MacKinnon has 600 points from those 600 games, though how they have been put together tells a story of how he has developed as a player.

Solid First 300 Games Followed by High Scoring Second 300

You can split the first 600 games of MacKinnon’s NHL career into two clear halves. The first half, finding his feet after being drafted first overall in 2013 and scoring 206 points from his first 300 games in the league.

After that, MacKinnon has popped off, setting himself up as being regarded as the player in the NHL on one of the most team-friendly deals. Despite being the player that every opposing player targets and wants to shut down, he has been able to score freely throughout. His most recent 300 games have resulted in 394 points, which is just under 125 from every 100 games played.

Nathan MacKinnon Colorado Avalanche 2022 Stanley Cup
Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche lifts the Stanley Cup (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

At 26, MacKinnon is now in his peak, and it is a fair assumption to make that he can continue this kind of point-scoring pace, certainly for the next 300 games at least. What we can assume is that he will remain with the team, remain as their top center and be the main focus point of the attack, and in particular, the power play.

Comparisons to MacKinnon’s Draft Class

We often look through a previous draft and look to find where the value was, if anyone was stolen off the board late and how the top picks have all compared to each other. A look at the 2013 NHL Draft class and you will see that MacKinnon has given the Avalanche full value for their first overall pick so far.

MacKinnon scored his 600th point against the Minnesota Wild in his 599th game. Not only was he the first player from his draft class to reach 600 points, only Aleksander Barkov, drafted second overall and playing for the Florida Panthers, has reached 500 points.

Projections for the Next 300 Games

Let’s split down the rest of MacKinnon’s career for the sake of projections and take a look at the next 300 games, because this is where he could land a very special honor. That would put him on 900 NHL games played, and if we are going to project him to score at the same rate as his most recent 300 games, he will add 400 points to his total.

That gives him 1000 points from 900 games. Not only does that give MacKinnon the honor of scoring 1000 NHL points, but standing at just 1015 total points is Joe Sakic, who is the current leading points scorer for the Avalanche. This is solely based on Avalanche games, not including the Quebec Nordiques, with those games added too, Sakic has over 1600, as well as his jersey in the rafters.

Working on 50 more games this season, plus four further seasons to play 250 games and make up the 300 figure, that would take MacKinnon to the end of the 2025-26 season when he is 30. At this point, it is possible that he holds the Avalanche all-time points scorer title, with the rest of his career ahead of him to add more to that and prevent anyone else from catching him.

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As things stand, 92 NHL players have scored 1000 points or more, others will get there before MacKinnon, but he is going to join this exclusive club at some point.

Nathan MacKinnon Career Points Projections

As MacKinnon goes into his 30s, this is where things become very tough to work out, and of course, health will play a big part in this. However, he can list himself amongst the current greats of the game, even if his production drops off a little.

Alex Ovechkin has played 1274 games so far and scored 1410 points in those, with a lot of talk about his goal-scoring record. If MacKinnon’s current pace of 400 points from 300 games is to be continued, when he reaches 1200 games, he will have scored 1400 points. That puts him ahead of what Ovechkin is currently doing, on a points per game basis. Given Ovechkin is still scoring at a strong rate, the belief is high that MacKinnon can do the same, which would make this in reach. He doesn’t need to improve on what he has done so far in his career, this is based on replicating his most recent 300 games over the next 600.

Sidney Crosby is a big friend of MacKinnon’s and there is definitely competition between them. Crosby has yet to reach 1200 games, having played 1108 so far. He’s scored 1409 points in those games, which puts him well ahead of what MacKinnon is projecting. If he wants to beat his close friend and rival, MacKinnon is going to have to improve on what we have seen from him over, and even that might not be good enough.

Nathan MacKinnon Colorado Avalanche Sidney Crosby Pittsburgh Penguins
Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche takes a face-off against Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins (Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images)

If you take into account the possibility of injuries, MacKinnon is likely to be around 35 when he hits 1200 games. That should be young enough for him to keep scoring at the rate we are currently seeing. This rate would give him 1400 points from 1200 games, achievable if he continues to play with one of the best lines in hockey. Should he cool off, and go at the rate of his first 300 games in the league, MacKinnon would then get to around 1200 points in 1200 games, as that would mirror his first 600.

In terms of the franchise as a whole, including the Quebec Nordiques, if MacKinnon wants to become number one, something special will be needed. Sakic played 1378 games for the franchise, scoring 1641 points.

Although not impossible, MacKinnon would have to play until his late 30’s, remain relatively injury-free, and keep scoring at a high rate for most of that period. Never say never, and whatever happens, becoming an all-time great and the leading Avalanche points scorer is seemingly something that is waiting to happen.

If he does get to the franchise lead and overtakes Sakic, then we will have witnessed something very special.

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