Nathan MacKinnon: The Next Face of the Columbus Blue Jackets?
By trading the face of the franchise in Rick Nash, the Blue Jackets left themselves without a marketable star. The good news is, there is a young player who can fill that void from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia who is draft eligible in 2013. His name is Nathan MacKinnon.
The Jackets only ever had one star player on their roster at any given time, and he was traded to the Rangers earlier this summer.
The trade of Rick Nash not only left the Jackets without a star player on the ice, but off it as well. From a marketing perspective, it's always advantageous for a team to market the hell out of their best player, to give fans a beacon for the franchise, and to put the team on the hockey map.
The Jackets, as currently assembled, feature a good mix of two-way forwards, a dangler here or there, and a solid defensive unit. There isn't a star to be found among them however, but the 2013 NHL Draft could solve that problem overnight.
I've been hearing about a kid from down the street for the past few years, who was being compared to another kid from down the street- Sidney Crosby. As a resident of Cole Harbour, NS, I have been hearing comparisons to Sid every time a young player from here has a good tournament, or scores a bunch of goals because he hit puberty earlier and dominated his league.
Nathan MacKinnon was different. He not only dominated at almost every level, but he also did the prep school thing at Shattuck St.Mary's in Minnesota. For those keeping tabs on the Crosby comparisons, that's two down- Cole Harbour native: Check. Went abroad to play for Shattuck: Check.
The comparisons don't end there. They were both taken with the first overall pick in the QMJHL draft, Sidney by the Rimouski Oceanic and MacKinnon by the Baie-Comeau Drakkar. (He was later traded to the Halifax Mooseheads) In Sid's rookie year, he led his team in scoring with 135 81 points.
Edit: It was pointed out that Sid's point totals were incorrect. He had 81 assists, not points in his rookie year. Sorry for the miss. Nonetheless, the other comparisons remain.
MacKinnon did the same last year for the Moose, finishing with 78 points. In a more interesting comparison, both players are/were considered to be the consensus top NHL prospect in their draft years, which also happened to be lockout-shortened seasons.
Depending on how long the current lockout lasts, the Jackets could have a serious shot at drafting MacKinnon. If the season is wiped out, as it was when Sid was eligible, a lottery system for all 30 teams will be used to determine who gets the top pick. The Jackets would have some of the best odds to earn that pick. If the season does resume at some point this year, this season's standings would be used to determine the 2013 draft order. While I believe the Jackets will be a hard-working, lunch pail team, they will likely be a lottery team again, with a shot at the top pick.
In either scenario, if the Jackets earn the top overall selection, or even second overall (Seth Jones, of the WHL's Portland Winterhawks, is a close second, and could go first overall if the team picking there desires a franchise defenseman) they would take MacKinnon, and he would be the star player to build around. The guy with the skill to be an NHL star, the player you can put on billboards all around Columbus, to do TV commercials, the list goes on.
I'll have plenty of opportunities to see MacKinnon as a season ticket holder, and I plan on tracking his progress throughout the season on The Cannon, with the hope that it will end with a bang on draft day with the Jackets stepping to the podium to announce that he is the newest member of the Columbus Blue Jackets.