The Colorado Avalanche's NHL-mandated bye week provided the team with time to heal bumps and bruises away from the rink and the grind of a compressed season schedule.
While players rested up and took some personal time--whether in the mountains, at the beach, or on the couch--the sabbatical was particularly fruitful for Avs forward Nathan MacKinnon, who was named to the 2017 NHL All-Star Game on Tuesday morning.
"It was exciting. Feels good. Obviously, I know every team has to send somebody. I know I wouldn't be going if it was just players from around the league," the fourth-year skater said, acknowledging that the honor isn't entirely based on his performance this campaign. "We have to send somebody to represent the Avs, so I'm honored to represent the Avalanche, for sure. I'm excited to see some friends from around the league, but yeah, really excited to go."
MacKinnon will make his debut at the signature event, joining the storied ranks of Avalanche alumni to have participated once upon a time, including Joe Sakic (seven times), Peter Forsberg (five), Patrick Roy (five), Milan Hejduk (three), Sandis Ozolinsh (three), Rob Blake (three), Matt Duchene (two), Valeri Kamensky, Jari Kurri, Ray Bourque, Alex Tanguay and Paul Stastny.
"That will be great. It's always an honor to play in the All-Star Game. You watch it on TV as a kid growing up, and obviously I'm very excited to go and honored to go," MacKinnon said. "With the 3-on-3 format, there's lots of ice. You can skate around out there. I know it's not too serious, but it will be a lot of fun."
The opportunity to carry on the legacy of the organization also comes with the chance to skate on Team Central Division, which features a roster made up of other top-talent guys from around the league.
Video: Nathan MacKinnon selected to 2017 NHL All-Star Game
"I've skated with [Patrick] Kane before. I know him, and it will be fun to play with him," said MacKinnon. "There's [Tyler] Seguin--so many good players. [Patrik] Laine, hopefully he's healthy. Every team is [good]. There's not a bad player, obviously. So really excited to play 3-on-3."
The 3-on-3 round-robin tournament was a don't miss event last year in Nashville, Tennessee, and while it is sure to be equally as exciting in Los Angeles, California, this season, fans of MacKinnon will be thrilled to know that the 21-year-old Avalanche alternate captain will also get to participate in the All-Star Skills Competition.
Considered one of the faster players in the league, MacKinnon expects to be one of those partaking in the speed challenge.
"I'm assuming I'll skate. I don't know," he said. "The shootout is fun, too. I'd rather do the shootout than skate a lap, that's for sure, but it will be fun."
When asked about something like the hardest shot scenario, MacKinnon didn't miss the chance to take a jab at Jarome Iginla, who was standing nearby.
"I don't have a very good slap shot," MacKinnon said with a wry smile. "It's better than Iggy's though."
The veteran Iginla, who has skated in six different All-Star Games himself, chimed in immediately.
"Yeah, right! He should be in the fastest skater, 100 percent," Iginla said. "I don't think he'll have a choice, being a young guy like that.
"I can't wait to see you in it."
The festivities begin on Saturday, Jan. 28, with the 2017 Coors Light NHL All-Star Skills Competition, which pits divisional squads against each other for the right to select both the semifinal opponent and when the semifinal game will be played--first or second--on Sunday.
The event concludes on Sunday, Jan. 29, with the 2017 Honda NHL All-Star Game, which offers a $1 million prize to the winning club.