Nathan MacKinnon’s Quest for a 100-Point Season

Since 2013, seven NHL players have scored at least 100 points in the regular season: Sidney Crosby (2013-14, 2018-19), Patrick Kane (2015-16, 2018-19), Connor McDavid (2016-17, 2017-18, 2018-19), Claude Giroux (2017-18), Nikita Kucherov (2017-18, 2018-19), Leon Draisaitl (2018-19, 2019-20), and Brad Marchand (2018-19). One NHL superstar, perhaps the most electrifying player in the game, is not on this list — Nathan MacKinnon. In his seven-season NHL career, the 2013 first-overall pick has yet to accomplish the milestone.

Nathan MacKinnon Colorado Avalanche
Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

MacKinnon has produced at an alarming rate since his NHL debut. He has 495 points in 525 games, ranking 12th among players since 2013. His .94 points per game (P/PG) rank 10th among players with at least 500 games played, a testament to his consistency and durability. Nevertheless, he has not reached the three-digit point total in one season. But, if MacKinnon’s recent seasons are any indication, it will not be long until he accomplishes the personal feat.

Early Career Struggles

It is hard to imagine now, but MacKinnon’s potent offensive abilities were latent early in his career. He posted solid numbers in his rookie season (24 goals, 39 assists), and the Avalanche made the playoffs. However, during the following three seasons both he and the Avalanche struggled significantly. MacKinnon posted 38 points in 64 games in 2014-15. The team finished 21st in the NHL. In 2015-16, he improved slightly, netting 52 points in 72 games. The Avalanche again finished 21st. Then, in 2016-17, MacKinnon slid backwards, scoring only 53 points in 82 games. The team finished dead last, securing a measly 22 wins.

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MacKinnon’s confidence wavered, especially as he watched other young stars like Auston Matthews, Connor McDavid, and Nikita Kucherov post massive numbers. In an interview with Spittin’ Chiclets, MacKinnon stated how he doubted himself both on and off the ice. “It’s like, ‘What is wrong with me?’ As a hockey player, you kind of judge yourself off of how you’re playing hockey sometimes. If you have a bad year, you think poorly of yourself as a human.”

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As the Avalanche and MacKinnon underperformed, he decided something had to change. He elevated his commitment to the next level by training harder, eating better, and even seeking the help of a sports psychologist. “I’m a hothead. I get very negative and down on myself,” MacKinnon said. Early in the 2017-18 season, his woes persisted, but he remained dedicated to the mental regimen in his first year with the sports psychologist. “I tried to stay present and achieve my process goals and just doing little things that make me successful. And, it started working.”

Indeed, it did work. MacKinnon would score 97 points (39 goals, 58 assists) in 74 games that season. His finished fifth in points, and the Avalanche’s playoff drought ended. In the first-round loss to the Nashville Predators, he had three goals and three assists in six games. By the summer of 2018, he had dispelled all doubts surrounding his ability and positioned himself and the Avalanche to thrive.

A Few Close Calls

Over the past three seasons, MacKinnon has excelled. He has tallied 289 points in 225 games, third among players in that span. His 1.28 P/PG trail only McDavid (1.43) and Kucherov (1.36). He has tallied 115 goals for a rate of .51 per game, while his 174 assists tie Marchand for fifth in the league. MacKinnon’s success has helped propel the Avalanche to two consecutive playoff berths — and a third should the NHL return later this summer.

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Despite this powerhouse production, MacKinnon has, surprisingly, yet to meet or eclipse the 100-point mark in a single season, a feat that most top-tier players around him have accomplished. This is no slight against him. The 100-point mark is somewhat arbitrary, especially given his monster numbers and the Avalanche’s team success. Nonetheless, it is an impressive accomplishment and one he has in his sights.

Nathan MacKinnon Colorado Avalanche Sidney Crosby Pittsburgh Penguins
MacKinnon faces off against childhood hero Sidney Crosby, who has scored 100 points six times in his career (Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images)

MacKinnon has brushed up against 100 points ever so closely. After his 97 points in 2017-18, he finished with 99 in 2018-19. Then, this season, he set a blazing pace, tallying 93 points in 63 games. Though he missed 7 games, the Avalanche had 12 games remaining in the regular season before the pause. Surely, without the pause, he would have eclipsed 100 points.

With or without a 100-point season, MacKinnon has established himself as one of the best players in the NHL. His otherworldly speed, lightning-fast hands, quick release, and precise shot make him a dynamic and dangerous forward. Barring any serious injury next season, he will surpass 100 points and carve out his best season in his young career.

Team Success Over Personal Success

MacKinnon prioritizes team success over individual achievement, a trait that makes him a world-class player and teammate. The Avalanche boast one of the best, most complete teams in the NHL. They are positioned for their best postseason run in years, and he will lead the charge. The 2019-20 season is over, and he has shifted his sights to the Stanley Cup. In an interview with TSN’s Darren Dreger, MacKinnon said the most difficult aspect of the pause was the halt to the Avalanche’s quest for the Cup.

For me, personally, this was kind of the first year I really felt like we could win. We have a very, very strong team and it just sucks. Hopefully now we get that closure.

– TSN Interview with Darren Dreger

The Avalanche will play the Dallas Stars, St. Louis Blues, and Vegas Golden Knights in a round-robin tournament to determine seeding in the playoffs. These games will give players a chance to regain game-shape, and MacKinnon will hopefully resume producing at the same staggering rate as before. Led by his example, and under captain Gabriel Landeskog’s leadership, the Avalanche have the opportunity to claim Lord Stanley.

The Face of a Franchise

So, while MacKinnon has not scored 100 points in a single season yet, he will soon. Besides, there are more important matters at hand: the quest for the elusive Stanley Cup. MacKinnon not only focuses on realizing this dream this season, but also he has stated he wants to be an Avalanche for years to come. Already on an extremely team-friendly, seven-year, $44 million contract, he told NBC Sports, “On my next deal, I’ll take less again. Because I want to win with this group.”

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MacKinnon’s current contract takes him through the 2022-23 season, so Avalanche fans do not have to worry about negotiations anytime soon. Regardless, his quote is music to fans’ ears. The Avalanche could win in the immediate future, and with players like Mikko Rantanen and Cale Makar, the team has the potential to become a dynasty. Imagine MacKinnon with a few 100-point seasons, one Stanley Cup, maybe a Hart or Art Ross Trophy. It would be hard not to consider him the best player in the NHL.