Avalanche’s Nathan MacKinnon fine with being overlooked


Avalanche’s Nathan MacKinnon fine with being overlooked

NEW YORK — The public rink on the West Side of Manhattan could be a rink anywhere in North America. Its lobby is dotted with tables and benches. There is a small concession stand with pastries and pizza and drinks. Vending machines rest against walls. A skate rental and pro shop are separated by a handful of yards. Employees and regulars greet each other with knowing familiarity.
In the rink itself, nine rows of bleachers run from one end of the rink to the other. Hanging above the ice are banners for youth hockey championships.
It’s the kind of place where NHLers spent their mornings during their formative years, but likely no longer. Not with state-of-the-art practice facilities, and arenas that can double as palaces.
And yet the Sky Rink at Chelsea Piers was where Nathan MacKinnon and the Colorado Avalanche spent Tuesday morning preparing for that night’s match against the rebuilding New York Rangers. And in a very odd way, it seemed fitting. One of the NHL’s most unassuming stars readying himself in a relatively humble rink.
Coming off his Hart Trophy finalist season, MacKinnon has begun the 2018-19 season with six goals in five games. All of which should have his name on the lips and fingertips of league observers.
Because a handful of days into the season, the talk around the league has surrounded Toronto’s dynamic duo of centers, Auston Matthews (league-leading 10 goals) and John Tavares (tied for third in the league with six goals), along with Connor McDavid’s nightly how-did-he-do-that? showcase.
Whether it is real or perceived disrespect, it is enough to cause a coach to offer an impassioned defense of a player who has more points (seven) than Los Angeles’ Anze Kopitar (two) and Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall (three) so far this season. Neither Hall nor Kopitar, also a Hart finalist, have scored a goal this year. Of course, it should be noted that New Jersey has only played three games and Los Angeles has played six. So neither are significant sample sizes.
“I don’t think he gets as much credit as he deserves. We’re well aware of it down in Colorado. Our fans get the privilege to watch him play every night,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said. “I also think that’s something that’s earned. Last year he has a great season, a breakout season he’s been building towards for a handful of years. And I think the follow up campaign this season will probably earn him more credit around the league.
“To be nominated for the Hart and be in that mix, certainly is getting a lot of credit. I feel like he deserved that. That start that he’s having, I think as the season wears on, it’s just a matter of time before he starts getting a little bit more credit. But I think if you talk to his opponents and teams that are coaching and playing against him, I think they understand he is an extremely dangerous player. Some of those other guys get a little bit more media attention but I think that’s fine with Nate. But I think he certainly deserves it.”
And what does MacKinnon think?
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Nathan MacKinnon sets club record but Avalanche falls in overtime to Calgary

“Ah, I don’t know,” said the first overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, while sitting on an opened cardboard box filled with seat protectors. “Those guys are amazing players. I haven’t been following the news. I’m not sure if I have been recognized or not — I guess you would know better than I (would, but) those guys are great players.”
Footnote. Newly acquired forward Marko Dano had not yet reported to the Avalanche, due to “immigration issues,” according to a team spokesperson. Dano, 23, has played in 130 NHL games with Columbus, Chicago and Winnipeg, totaling 19 goals and 26 assists for 45 points. Last season, the native of Eisenstadt, Austria, recorded three points (two goals and an assist) in 23 games with the Western Conference finalist Jets.
Still Bednar believes the 27th overall pick in the 2013 draft can contribute to the Avalanche.
“He’s a young, skilled player. Has a real sturdiness to his game, can contribute in a bunch of different situations including power play and penalty kill,” Bednar said. “He showed more of an offensive upside when he was younger. With the deep team Winnipeg has, he probably didn’t get as much ice time as he would like, and I think we have some ice time … that’s up for grabs, and I think he can get in the mix.”

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