Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon has taken the path many promising prospects hope to follow once all the fun begins after the 2014 NHL Draft at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on June 27-28.
MacKinnon, who was ranked No. 2 on NHL Central Scouting's final list of the top North American skaters for the 2013 draft, was taken No. 1 by by the Avalanche. Colorado now is reaping the rewards and MacKinnon is living the dream.
He leads all rookies in goals (20), points (42), power-play goals (eight) and shots on goal (164) and is tied for the League lead with Tyler Toffoli of the Los Angeles Kings with five game-winning goals.
Is he the top contender for the Calder Trophy as the NHL Rookie of the Year?
Draft dandy of the week: Kempe
Left wing Adrian Kempe of Modo Jr. in Sweden's junior division continues to impress as the team's alternate captain this season.
Kempe, No. 3 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm list of the top 2014 NHL Draft-eligible European skaters, has three goals, 18 points and a plus-9 rating in 14 games. His Canadian Hockey League rights belong to the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League, who selected him in the second round (No. 107) of the 2013 CHL Import Draft.
NHL Network analyst Craig Button said that the 6-foot-1.5, 187-pound left-handed shooter "has all the elements necessary to becoming a really strong NHL player."
"He's a big, strong, bullish forward who can play center or wing," NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb said. "He likes to drive hard for the net, using his strength and skating to his advantage. He plays the body and is aggressive when forechecking. He has a good defensive game for a player with his offensive skills; mobile, solid and strong."
Kempe, born in Kramfors, Sweden, considers himself a technical player with a "powerful" shot. His brother, Mario Kempe, was selected in the fifth round (No. 122) of the 2007 NHL Draft by the Philadelphia Flyers but has spent the past five seasons playing in Sweden.
"I'm a big, creative player with good hockey IQ that [has] good speed," Kempe said.
NHL team: "I don't really have any favorite team, but if I had to choose one I'd say the Philadelphia Flyers because my brother was drafted by them."
NHL player: Marian Gaborik. "He's so fast and I love that."
Shootout move: "I've got so many different moves, but I like a shot fake and backhand between the legs. That's always nice."
Goal celebration: "Archer for sure."
Video game: FIFA 14
Movie: "The Wolf of Wall Street"
Actor: Tom Cruise
Website: Twitter and YouTube
Preferred music: "Hakan Hellstrom and Swedish hip-hop."
Three people you would invite to dinner: LeBron James, Floyd Mayweather, Leonardo DiCaprio
Sport (other than hockey): Soccer and skateboarding
Breakfast food: "Cereal with milk, a sandwich and O'boy [chocolate drink]. Life's so good when I got that."
Superhero: Mr. Incredible
-- Mike G. Morreale
"It's too early to talk about Calder," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. "I think Nate needs to focus on one day at a time and what he controls. I don't want him to think more than that. Individual honors are nice, but you know what? [That's] in June. Right now it's about the team."
MacKinnon recently provided NHL.com with some insight into what it has been like for him this season. Obviously any advice for a potential 2014 draft pick couldn't hurt.
"The biggest adjustment for me was remembering to do the things that got me here," MacKinnon said. "I went away from that early on. It's a tough League, especially early on. You have to figure out what you can and cannot do, but it's also important to stick to what you do well and remain confident.
"Only when you have that confidence can you find that success."
MacKinnon is familiar with many of the top players available in the 2014 draft and acknowledged "there are some good players."
His advice to them is to remain confident and keep doing the things that have enabled each player to excel at the junior level.
"The game is the same for sure; hockey is hockey," MacKinnon said. "Everyone is a good player in this League. In junior I don't know how many plays the third- or fourth-line guys can make, but the third and fourth lines in this League are very talented hockey players and likely lit up juniors. I find that the fast pace is a lot of fun; you don't have to overthink plays."
Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog, who is in his third season, was impressed with MacKinnon the moment he met him prior to training camp. Landeskog was No. 2 on Central Scouting's final list of North American skaters for the top 2011 NHL Draft and then was drafted No. 2 by the Avalanche.
"The biggest surprise for me is the consistency he has shown," Landeskog said of MacKinnon. "I remember as a rookie there were so many games. There was so much traveling you would get tired and it was hard to find your game on some nights because you're so tired. But he's found a way to keep that consistent level and that's not easy to do."
EAGLES SOAR BEHIND DEMKO
Boston College freshman goaltender Thatcher Demko, No. 1 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm list of the top 2014 draft-eligible goalies in North America, had a stellar effort in his Beanpot Tournament debut Monday, making 27 saves in a 3-1 victory against Boston University in the semifinal round at TD Garden in Boston.
The Eagles will face Northeastern in the Beanpot championship game next Monday at 7:30 p.m. ET before what is sure to be a packed house at TD Garden. The 6-foot-3.75, 192-pounder is expected to start the final, a game that very well might be the biggest of his career to this point.
"He's been a good goaltender for a lot of years, you know, so I don't think it's a surprise that he could handle something like this and play well," Boston College coach Jerry York told sports editor Connor Mellas of bcheightssports.com. "I think Thatcher, as I watch him, he's getting more confident. He handles the puck now; he reminds me an awful lot of Cory Schneider at the same age."
Demko, who even earned an assist on teammate Johnny Gaudreau's third-period goal, won his sixth straight game and improved to 9-1-2 with a 1.90 goals-against average and .930 save percentage in 12 games.
"I thought we played well, but Thatcher, you know, kept them off the boards," York said. "We gave them a 2-on-0 break, there was one save, a remarkable save right around the crease area that they made a tic-tac-toe play and … I have to see the tape, I don't know how it stayed out of the net. I think a lot of our good defense, that was the play of Thatcher."
Schneider, now with the New Jersey Devils, played in three Beanpot tournaments for York at Boston College but never celebrated a victory.
"[Demko's] big, he's square, he makes a great save at the end of the game where just because he's in great position," Boston University coach David Quinn said. "He understands what his strength is and it's his size. He doesn't waste any movement and he doesn't waste any energy."
DAL COLLE ADMIRES QB TOM BRADY
Despite his Canadian roots, Michael Dal Colle of the Oshawa Generals of the Ontario Hockey league happens to be a huge fan of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
He acknowledged that like Brady he always is looking to improve in every area.
"I like the way he carries himself; he's never satisfied," Dal Colle said of Brady. "He's got the three championship rings and is not satisfied with that. He goes out every game and is still on a quest for the fourth. What I love about him is that he's so dominant in the NFL but he never seems to plateau, just continues to get better even with age. He makes everyone around him better."
Dal Colle, who is fourth in the Ontario Hockey League with 73 points (32 goals, 41 assists) in 51 games, is No. 5 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm list of the top draft-eligible North American skaters.
"Michael's a big guy [6-1.5, 179], so when you see those big guys with playmaking ability you get excited," Central Scouting's Chris Edwards said. "He skates as well and has a tremendous shot. I've seen him score when he sets up at the top of circle. He's used at the point on the power play and is out there for almost the entire man-advantage. He gets off a good one-timer. I love his hands and playmaking ability."
Dal Colle is the featured player for NHL.com's prospect profile this week.
TOP PROSPECT PASTRNAK SUSTAINS INJURY
Forward David Pastrnak sustained a concussion Saturday and will not participate for his native Czech Republic at the Under-18 Five Nations Tournament that runs this week in Dmitrov, Russia.
Pastrnak, who is a regular playing in Sweden's second division for Sodertalje, played a key role for sixth-place Czech Republic at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship in January. The 6-0, 167-pound right wing played top-six minutes and finished with one goal, three points and eight shots in five games. The Five Nations Tournament, which runs through Saturday, features elite prospects from the United States, Sweden, Russia, Finland and Czech Republic.
NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb said it's unknown how long Pastrnak will be out. Pastrnak, who considers his strongest assets as a player to be his hockey sense, offensive skills and mobility, is No. 4 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm list of the top draft-eligible skaters in Europe.
Pastrnak, born in Havirov, Czech Republic, came to Sodertalje at the start of the 2012-13 season, made the under-20 team and had 12 goals and 29 points in 32 games in Sweden’s junior league.
PROSPECTS ON THE RISE
1. Alex Lintuniemi, Ottawa 67's (OHL): Added as a C-ranked player on NHL Central Scouting's February players to watch list, the 6-3, 231-pound defenseman has three goals, 17 points and 14 penalty minutes in 50 games in his first season with the 67's. The native of Helsinki, Finland, was chosen with the second pick of the 2013 Canadian Hockey League Import Draft. He served as captain for the Under-20 Jokerit team in Finland's junior A division last season and had four goals, 14 points and 76 penalty minutes in 38 games.
2. Colton Bobyk, Spokane Chiefs (WHL): In his first full season with the Chiefs, the 6-1.25, 190-pound left-shot defenseman has four goals, 10 points and 50 penalty minutes in 41 games. He scored twice and was named the game's second star in a 5-4 loss to the Everett Silvertips on Feb. 1. Bobyk was added to Central Scouting's February players to watch list as a C-ranked player.
3. Kyle Wood, North Bay Battalion (OHL): The 6-3.75, 195-pound defenseman recently was upgraded to a C-ranked skater on Central Scouting's players to watch list. Now in his second season with the Battalion, Wood has one goal, five points and a plus-4 rating in 16 games.