"We wanted somebody who was not only a good hockey player but someone who would entertain our fans and give them a good reason to come and watch our games," said coach Patrick Roy, who also serves as the Avalanche vice president of hockey operations.
Fans haven't been disappointed. The Avalanche have been one of the surprise teams in the NHL. Entering action Thursday, they sat second in the Central Division and third in the Western Conference with a 43-18-5 record. After finishing 29th in the overall standings a year ago, they are in line for their first Stanley Cup Playoff appearance since 2010.
The play of MacKinnon, who turned 18 on Sept. 1, has been a major factor in Colorado's improvement. He leads NHL rookies in goals (22), assists (29) and points (51), had a 13-game scoring streak to break Wayne Gretzky's 1979-80 record for an 18-year-old, and is a leading candidate for the Calder Trophy.