The 2014-15 NHL campaign didn’t quite end the way Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon
wanted it to. Just as he was heating up, he had to hit the showers.
A fracture to his foot left the 19-year-old sidelined for the remainder of the season, stifling the momentum he was building down the stretch—he had nine points (five goals, four assists) in his last 10 games—and altering his plans for the offseason.
MacKinnon’s road to next year began anew this morning, as the Nova Scotia native took the ice with Hockey Canada’s team at the 2015 IIHF World Championship in Prague, Czech Republic.
|Nathan MacKinnon |
“I actually got cleared [last week], so I’m officially ready to go for Worlds. It was a pretty quick recovery, so I’m very fortunate,” said MacKinnon. “Obviously I wish I could’ve played the last bit of the season, but I guess Worlds is the next best thing. I definitely miss it, and I’m excited to go.”
Although he couldn’t take the ice, walking boot in tow wherever he went, MacKinnon was still able to keep in decent shape throughout the recovery period. He shouldn’t be too far behind everyone else playing in the opening round.
“I worked out pretty hard. I couldn’t skate for almost a month. I was working out with [Avalanche strength and conditioning coach Casey Bond] pretty hard in the gym every day,” he admitted. “I could only do upper body for two weeks, so I got pretty big that way.”
Playing in his second World Championship in as many years, the international tournament could be somewhat routine were it not for the possibility of playing alongside three of MacKinnon’s Avalanche teammates: Matt Duchene, Tyson Barrie and Ryan O'Reilly.
“It’s cool. It’s always good to share experiences together. Throughout the season we see a lot of each other,” MacKinnon said. “Now at Worlds, it’s always good to get as much experience as you can overseas and internationally. I think it’s going to help our game over here too.”
The big names don’t stop with the Avs either. Canada’s roster includes guys like Canada captain Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins), forwards Tyler Seguin (Dallas Stars), Jason Spezza (Stars) and Claude Giroux (Philadelphia Flyers) and defenseman Brent Burns (San Jose Sharks). With such a heavy lineup, MacKinnon has an opportunity to learn the game from those who have seen a thing or two before.
“Some of the best players in the world are going to be there on our team. Seguin, Giroux and the Edmonton guys. A lot of good players. Spezza on Dallas as well,” MacKinnon said. “It’s going to be a fun group. Pretty young relatively… but it should be good to talk to some guys about different things from during the season and share some pointers as well.”
It’s guys like these, including MacKinnon, that give Canada favored odds to win the tournament.
“I think we should be the favorite. I mean, looking at our roster and obviously being Team Canada, I feel like we should always be the favorite. Our mindset will be no different,” he said. “I mean with our talent over there, we’re always going to be the favorite. We have some exceptional players, and it’s going to be a real challenge.
“Russia always has good guys, they take that very seriously. I remember last year, [Evgeni] Malkin flew over there after the second round just to play in the final game. Sweden as well… It’s going to be a tough tournament.”