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  1. Nathan MacKinnon collected his fourth weekly NHL three-star honors this afternoon after posting six goals and two assists in four games for the Colorado Avalanche. MacKinnon’s eight points were one off of leader Alex Pietrangelo’s nine points. But as he’s been doing all season, MacKinnon has done a fantastic job collecting primary points. He scored six goals and added one primary assist to lead the league last week with seven primary points. For those that are unaware or may need a reminder, a primary point in hockey is the total goals and ‘first assist’ that a player collects. The NHL officially started tracking secondary assists in 1935-36 and any player that collects a secondary assist receives one point just like the primary assist-getter and the goal scorer. Heading into the final 10 games on the Avs’ schedule, Nathan MacKinnon has produced just 17 secondary assists this season. His primary point totals equate to 38 goals, 34 ‘first assists,’ and 72 primary points in 64 GP. Since 2007-08 the list of players that have produced over 1.00 Primary P/GP is very small. In fact, it includes only five names (MacKinnon being the sixth) over and over again. Let’s take a look: Alex Ovechkin 2007-08 101 Primary Points 82 GP 1.23 Primary P/GP Evgeni Malkin 2011-12 96 Primary Points 75 GP 1.28 Primary P/GP Alex Ovechkin 2008-09 88 Primary Points 79 GP 1.11 Primary P/GP Alex Ovechkin 2009-10 87 Primary Points 72 GP 1.21 Primary P/GP Sidney Crosby 2009-10 87 Primary Points 81 GP 1.07 Primary P/GP Patrick Kane 2015-16 87 Primary Points 82 GP 1.06 Primary P/GP Steve Stamkos 2011-12 85 Primary Points 82 GP 1.04 Primary P/GP Evgeni Malkin 2007-08 85 Primary Points 82 GP 1.04 Primary P/GP Sidney Crosby 2008-09 84 Primary Points 77 GP 1.09 Primary P/GP Evgeni Malkin 2008-09 82 Primary Points 82 GP 1.00 Primary P/GP Nathan MacKinnon 2017-18 * 72 Primary Points 64 GP 1.13 Primary P/GP Sidney Crosby 2007-08 57 Primary Points 53 GP 1.08 Primary P/GP Patrick Kane 2013 47 Primary Points 47 GP 1.00 Primary P/GP Sidney Crosby 2013 43 Primary Points 36 GP 1.19 Primary P/GP (Evgeni Malkin currently has 67 primary points in 68 GP this season). Alex Ovechkin has been the king of producing productive primary point seasons during his illustrious NHL career. It goes without mentioning that his 601 goals are all accounted as primary points. But since 2008 Ovechkin has produced 412 assists of which 246 were ‘first assists.’ Ovechkin leads the way with the highest scoring primary point season in the NHL since 2007-08. That year, Ovechkin recorded 101 primary points in 82 GP, highlighted by a career-high 65 goals. His primary P/GP production checked in at a whopping 1.23. But this is actually not the most productive number since that year. In 2011-12, Evgeni Malkin led the league with 109 points in just 75 GP. Of those 109, Malkin scored 50 goals and recorded the first assist 46 times to total 96 primary points in 75 GP. This produced a 1.28 primary P/GP pace. While MacKinnon still has an opportunity to continue to rack up points and climb up the board, it’s hard to imagine he adds 23 primary points over the last 10 games of the season to eclipse Malkin’s 1.28 primary P/GP pace from six years ago. Impressively, the only other seasons better than MacKinnon’s current 1.13 primary P/GP are a 1.21 pace from Ovechkin in 2009-10 (87 primary points in 72 GP) and Sidney Crosby’s injury-plagued 43 primary points in 36 GP season during the already shortened lockout year. MacKinnon’s 72 primary points in 64 GP is the fifth most productive primary point season since 2007-08 with only future hall-of-famers Ovechkin, Malkin and Crosby producing better seasons. What makes his production this season all the more impressive is the fact that he not only has the lone >1.00 primary P/GP pace this season, but last year’s leader Connor McDavid produced just 74 primary points in 82 GP. In fact, since the 2013 lockout, the only other player to produce over 1.00 primary P/GP is Patrick Kane in 2015-16. In each of the other seasons (2013-14, 2014-15, 2016-17) the leading primary point producer was unable to eclipse that mark. The leaders of those seasons are listed below: Sidney Crosby 2013-14 70 Primary Points 80 GP 0.88 Primary P/GP Tyler Seguin 2013-14 70 Primary Points 80 GP 0.88 Primary P/GP Alex Ovechkin 2014-15 73 Primary Points 81 GP 0.90 Primary P/GP Connor McDavid 2016-17 74 Primary Points 82 GP 0.90 Primary P/GP It’s quite obvious at this point that MacKinnon has turned heads all season with his offensive production. He’s almost single handedly leading the Avs back to the playoffs. While he has received support from his linemates Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog along with high-scoring offensive defenseman Tyson Barrie, MacKinnon’s primary point production leads the Avs by a wide margin. Rantanen comes in at second place with 51 primary points in 71 GP while Landeskog and Barrie are yet to reach 40 primary points. There has been a lot of talks surrounding MacKinnon and the Hart Trophy all season long. Whether or not he wins it is still up in the air. But one thing is for certain about the young 22-year-old centerman. Highlighted by his two goals and one primary assist yesterday against the Red Wings, MacKinnon has been at the forefront of almost every major Avalanche goal this season. And with 10 GP before the end of the regular-season, he has a chance to reach primary point numbers the league hasn’t seen from anyone outside of the big three that have dominated the NHL in the shootout era. (All stats from naturalstattrick.com and nhl.com. All photos from avalanche.nhl.com) CLICK HERE to continue reading!
  2. The NHL has been notorious for what has been dooped as the “sophomore slump.” Players who light up the league in their first season in the most skilled league in the World, only to fail to live up to the same levels of success they had during their first year. The latest example of this phenomenon is Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche. The 19-year-old took home the Calder Trophy last season after leading all rookies with 63 points. However, this season, like the rest of his Avs teammates, he is having a disappointing go having put up just 20 points in 32 games, which at that pace would see a dip of 12 points this season for a total of 51. However, while MacKinnon seems to be struggling to perform at the same level he did last season, there have been a collection of sophomore players who are trending in the opposite direction. Instead of slumping in year two, they have elevated their play to a new level and are quickly becoming important parts of their NHL clubs. Sean Monahan The sixth-overall pick in 2013 put up an impressive 22 goals in his rookie campaign and added another 12 assists on a Calgary Flames team that did just slightly better than their Alberta counterparts, the Oilers. This year the team rushed out to a start that not many predicted prior to opening day. However, since then the Flames have cooled off, but Monahan still looks to eclipse the impressive numbers he amassed last season. Through the first 35 games the 20-year-old has 11 goals and 21 points and is on pace to hit the 25 goal mark and 49 points. It’s not a huge number, but is a 44% increase on last year’s point total and is on pace for the second most goals on the team behind Jiri Hudler. Brock Nelson Nelson broke into the league last season with the New York Islanders and put up 26 points in 72 games. Fast-forward to this season and the former 2010 first-round pick is becoming one of the go-to-guys for the Islanders. Through his team’s first 33 games he has helped his team find a spot among the top of the Eastern Conference with his 14 goals and 27 points. His ice-time has risen over 2:30 to where it was last year and Nelson has been making every last minute count. Nelson is on pace for 67 points just two points behind the paces of both John Tavares and Kyle Okposo for top spot on the team. Tyler Johnson The Tampa Bay Lightning haven’t seemed to really skip a beat since the departure of long-time Bolt, Martin St. Louis last season. A big part of the reason is because of the play of Tyler Johnson. The 24-year-old has helped his team become among the elites in the East. Johnson had a very impressive rookie season finishing second in voting behind MacKinnon. He tied the Avs centre with 24 goals last year including five shorthanded. He put up a very impressive 50 points playing in all 82 games. This season though he’s on pace to shatter those totals, he currently has 10 goals and 34 points in 34 games, on pace for 81, after missing one game earlier this season. He is also second in the NHL with a plus-20. But what might be most shocking is that the Spokane, WA native was never drafted, but rather signed by the Lightning in 2011 as a free agent. Nikita Kucherov The Lightning are quickly becoming the new Detroit Red Wings, finding a way to be successful at the hands of their own homegrown talent and Nikita Kucherov is another example of that. The 21-year-old Russian was drafted by the Bolts in the second round 58th overall in 2011 and is third in team scoring behind Steven Stamkos and Johnson. The right winger has 13 goals and 30 points in 35 games after putting up just 18 points in 52 games in his rookie season. The 5-foot-11, 171 pounder had 24 points in 17 games in the AHL last season earning a call up from the team and he now seems to have earned a permanent spot with the big club. Sami Vatanen It took some time for Sami Vatanen to finally get a shot with the Anaheim Ducks after being drafted in the fourth round 106th overall in 2009, but the 23-year-old now looks like a steal of a pick. After playing 48 games with the Ducks and registering 21 points, the Finish blueliner made the team out of training camp and is quickly making a name for himself. In the team’s first 35 games, the right-hander has nine goals and 24 points, trailing only Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler. He is on pace for 56 points, 20 more points that Cam Fowler had last season, leading all Duck defenders. A player is expected to learn a lot and develop during his first season in the NHL. But entering year-two, rarely are players expected to become the most valuable pieces of their teams, but the few players above are quickly doing so. These players have not only avoided the “sophomore slump,” but rather have been part of a “sophomore sizzle.” Follow me on Twitter @Craig_Hagerman Photo Courtesy of Jeff Gross/Getty Images
  3. We are now into the third week of the season and already some teams have already been turning heads and make splashes around the league. The San Jose Sharks have come flying out of the gate having gone 6-0-0 to start the season and taking over the number one spot in the NHL Power Rankings. In Colorado the Avalanche are off to a 6-0-0 start with their new bench boss Patrick Roy at the helm. Meanwhile, the Calgary Flames, despite the overwhelming doubt heading into this season, have put up a very solid 3-1-2 record, not losing their first game in regulation until game 6. Now there are many different factors that can be attributed to the early success of these three teams, but one thing that each has greatly benefited from is the play from some of their rookies. So, in saying this let’s take a look at some of the rookies from these squads and see what they have done to help give their teams an early edge. In San Jose one man has stolen the show and arguably set the hockey world ablaze and that is 19 year old Czech sensation Tomas Hertl. Hertl, San Jose’s first round pick in 2012 (17th overall) has quickly made a name for himself. Through his first six games he has amassed an incredible 7 goals and 9 points. Hertl’s 7 goals to date are the most in the NHL. Hertl’s greatest accomplishment was easily his performance against the New York Rangers when he put up 4 goals including his highlight reel fourth goal where he was able to put his stick between his legs and go top shelf on Martin Biron. Hertl has quickly become a fan favourite amongst Sharks fans and already has defensemen around the league keeping a close eye. Although Hertl did garner a lot of criticism for what some believe to be “showboating” on his fourth goal against the Rangers, the fact of the matter is this kid has tremendous skill and a nose for the net and is in no doubt a big reason for the Sharks red hot start. Hertl's Fourth Goal Against the New York Rangers http://youtu.be/yMw4nksG7UQ In Colorado the Avalanche are off to a perfect 6-0-0 and though a lot of this success can be attributed to the new systems brought in by new head coach Patrick Roy and the unbelievable play of goaltender Semyon Varlamov another is the exceptional play of 2013 first overall draft pick Nathan MacKinnon. It’s hard to be surprised when the number one overall draft pick puts up big numbers, but in MacKinnon’s case there was a lot of skepticism as to where he would be taken in the draft this spring. It was until his stellar play in the Memorial Cup for the eventual winners the Halifax Mooseheads that MacKinnon put a stamp on that number one spot. However, going into this season after the draft the hype around MacKinnon seemed to die down. Well MacKinnon has been in the lineup for the Avs in every game so far this year and in 6 games MacKinnon has put up 7 points including 6 assists, good enough for most on the team. What may be more impressive than the numbers MacKinnon has put up is the way he has composed himself on the ice. MacKinnon, as he did in junior, looks to be one of the fastest players on the ice. For an 18 year old rookie to come into the NHL in his first season and not look out of place just goes to show how truly skilled this young man is. There may have been a lot of skepticism as to who this year’s numbers one draft pick should have been, but so far MacKinnon is proving the Avalanche made the right choice. Last year the Calgary Flames saw their worst finish in over a decade and with franchise cornerstones Jarome Iginla and Miika Kiprusoff now out of the picture many, myself included, gave very little hope for the Flames to make the postseason. However, after six games and a solid 8 points in the standings the Flames have shown they still have a bit of fight in them. One player who has had a real spark for the Flames has been rookie Sean Monahan. Monahan who was the Flames first round pick in 2013 has started his first NHL season with 5 points in his first 6 games for the Flames. In fact Monahan recorded a point in each of his first 5 games in the league, the first player to do this since Jonathan Toews did it back in 2005. Though Monahan is in just his first season in the NHL he may be relied on to provide a large portion of the offense this season for the Flames. Coming into the season the Flames highest point producers were Mike Cammalleri and Lee Stempniak who each only put up a mediocre 32 points in 48 games. The Flames clearly lack what many would consider a top 3 forward and with this absent from their lineup it will be up to players such as Monahan to pick up the slack. Monahan proved in junior with the Ottawa 67’s who finished last season with a 16-46 record that even on a struggling team he can still put up a lot of points and provide offense. Despite his team’s terrible record Monahan still recorded 78 points in 58 games. So, for Monahan it seems that Calgary might be a familiar setting for the skilled forward. Follow me on Twitter: @Craig_Hagerman

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