There’s a potential new young hockey phenomenon in the making and he has a lot in common with Sidney Crosby. His name is Nathan MacKinnon and, at just 16 years old, he’s already making a name for himself on the international stage.
MacKinnon recently took part in a selection camp alongside 39 other players from the Canadian junior leagues with the goal of picking the country’s roster for the upcoming Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, jointly co-hosted in the Czech Republic and Slovakia and set to start on Aug. 13.
The Hlinka tournament, while unofficially sanctioned by the International Ice Hockey Federation, is Canada’s chance to send their best junior players to an international tournament. That’s because the IIHF’s junior tourneys take place during the junior league playoffs back in Canada. So, the Hlinka tournament, named for a big star in the Czech hockey firmament, is very important especially to Canadian junior players.
MacKinnon made the team along with other big names in junior like Max Domi (son of Tie Domi) and Jordan Subban, the youngest of the three Subban brothers.
But MacKinnon’s backstory sounds similar to that of another famous native of Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia. Both MacKinnon and Crosby played minor hockey for the hometown Cole Harbour Red Wings. Both honed their skills at the famous Shattuck-St. Mary’s boarding school in Minnesota. Both were drafted first overall into the Quebec junior league as 16-year-olds, though Crosby played for the Rimouski Oceanic while MacKinnon is with the Halifax Mooseheads.
Sure, MacKinnon’s first year output of 78 points (31 goals, 47 assists) isn’t as eye-popping as Crosby’s (54 goals, 81 assists for 135 points total), but it is still an achievement.
The Mooseheads made it all the way to the conference finals in the playoffs, partly thanks to the strength of 78 points from MacKinnon in the regular season and 28 points in the postseason. Now they want to make it to the next Memorial Cup tournament, which would mirror Crosby once again–the Oceanic won the Memorial Cup during Crosby’s second year of junior.
There’s one more big potential chance for MacKinnon to be the next Crosby: on the podium at the Prudential Center for the 2013 NHL draft. It’s been said MacKinnon could be taken first overall just as Crosby was in 2005. A 2013 draft sneak peek from The Hockey News put MacKinnon second behind defenseman Seth Jones, but as a forward, MacKinnon could be a very attractive prospect to a team that needs scoring.
To keep the comparison going, MacKinnon counts Crosby among his heroes.
“Growing up watching him handle himself both on-and-off the ice, he’s definitely really admirable…I’ve got to know him on a personal basis too and my perception of him hasn’t changed one bit – he’s definitely someone you can look up to,” he said.
Could MacKinnon be, well, the next Next One? He’s certainly very young–born on Sept. 1, 1995–so he still has quite a lot of time to make his potential known.