By Michael Blinn
It's already been a whirlwind of a season for Avalanche rookie Nathan MacKinnon: the 18-year-old forward was selected first overall in the 2013 Draft, notched his first NHL goal, and is a leader in Colorado's resurgence among the NHL's tops teams.
All this and it's just eight games into the season.
There's plenty of hubbub and hoopla surround his ninth game on Monday night, when he'll face off against Sidney Crosby and the Penguins in in Pittsburgh. Crosby is pretty familiar with MacKinnon's situation this season, as the fellow Nova Scotia native joined the Pens as the first overall pick in 2005 after a lockout season, expected to revitalize an ailing franchise.
While MacKinnon has been an injection of life in Colorado, his 1-6-7 totals through eight games isn't exactly on pace to match up with Crosby's 39-63-102 line in 81 games during his first season, let alone his league-leading 7-10-17 numbers in 2013-14. While comparing players' numbers at this juncture is unfair (Crosby is on pace for 174 points this season, after all), the most important stat for each is 7-1-0 -- the record of both of their teams coming into Monday night's game. The Avs and Penguins are among the NHL's best teams in regards to offense, defense, and special teams - big reasons for their fast and furious starts.
Escaping CONSOL Energy Center with two points is the goal for both squads, but for a player like MacKinnon, it's in his best interest to try and learn whatever he can from Crosby. He already started by training with Sid in the offseason, and now he'll get an on-ice look at the 26-year-old who has won almost every major award the NHL has to offer and has his name etched on Lord Stanley's Cup. Crosby's accomplishments have been key to revitalizing both the franchise and the League in just eight seasons
Heck, there's a chance MacKinnon could even pick up a style pointer, or two.
There's no doubts that 60-plus minutes of hockey Monday night will be entertaining, but if MacKinnon can use his short time in Pittsburgh wisely, it could mean even more excitement down the road.