Now MacKinnon has done something that Wayne Gretzky never did: have a 13-game point streak at the age of 18.
MacKinnon set the NHL record for the longest point streak by an 18-year-old on Thursday as he had an assist in the Colorado Avalanche's 3-2 overtime win against the Detroit Red Wings. He surpasses the 12-game mark that Gretzky set from Dec. 9, 1979 to Jan. 5, 1980.
"I'm happy for him, but I’m more happy to see us win the game. I'm sure Nate feels the same," Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy said of MacKinnon breaking Gretzky's record.
MacKinnon now has 18 points (five goals and 13 assists) during his current streak.
"I want to be as consistent as possible," MacKinnon said. "Gretzky probably doubled my point total in those games (during his streak)."
The 2013 No. 1 overall draft pick's point on Thursday couldn't have come at a bigger moment as MacKinnon assisted on Andre Benoit's game-winning goal with 32 seconds left in overtime.
Colorado's winning sequence began after defenseman Erik Johnson threw the puck on net in the final minute of the extra period. Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard knocked the puck to the side and off the end wall where MacKinnon picked it up and began attacking the goal. It appeared as if the rookie was going to try and score short side, except he didn't shoot.
MacKinnon instead made a clean cross-ice pass from below the red line to Benoit, who was streaking into the zone, and the defenseman fired a wrist shot top shelf for his fourth goal of the season.
After a power play, 3-on-3 play, and a penalty kill in the first four minutes of overtime, Roy was waiting for the right time to send out MacKinnon. He picked a good moment for the rookie's first shift of the extra frame.
"I wanted to send him in the end," Roy said. "I hadn't played him in the overtime at all, and I thought that was the right time for him. He had great jump."
MacKinnon's 13-game run is tied for the second-longest streak of any NHL rookie over the past 15 seasons dating back to 1998-99. Only teammate Paul Stastny had a longer streak as a rookie, as he picked up a point in 20 straight games from Feb. 3 to March 17, 2007.
What's more impressive about the streak is that MacKinnon isn't playing his natural position of center during it. He's been playing right wing on a line with center Stastny and left wing Gabriel Landeskog, and he's been doing a pretty good job at it.
His time on the line with the two veteran players has helped him lead all NHL rookies this season in points (51), goals (22), assists (29), power-play goals (8), game-winning goals (5-tied) and shots (184). He is also the fifth-youngest player in NHL history to reach 50 points behind Bep Guidolin (18 years, 58 days), Ted Kennedy (18 years, 97 days), Sidney Crosby (18 years, 161 days) and Brian Bellows (18 years, 182 days).
MacKinnon said he doesn't have to make that much of an adjustment to play on the right side of Stastny and Landeskog.
"Stastny is a great centerman. It's very easy to play with him," MacKinnon said. "Very fortunate that we have such good depth at center that it makes it easy for the left and right wingers out there. Obviously, it's an adjustment coming from the middle to the right side, but overall it's been pretty smooth I think."
The game has slowed down for the rookie, and that is evident by the overtime goal.
If MacKinnon had the puck just feet from the goal and with the game on the line in October, he might have tried to shoot. Now that he has 63 games of NHL experience, he's more patient with the puck and has a better vision of the ice.
That vision led to a perfect pass, and the Avalanche's 41st win of the season.
"Great play by Nate to see Andre Benoit coming from the outside," Roy said. "He's a special player, and he made a special play there."
TAKING THE "LUCKY" BOUNCE TO A MILESTONE
Joe Louis Arena is notorious for its bouncy walls and for the hometown team taking advantage of them.
Colorado was able to take advantage of the bouncy boards in the second period Thursday on goal by Matt Duchene that tied the game at 1-1.
Goals: 20 | Assists: 38 | Pts: 58
Shots: 191 | +/-: 4
After Detroit had several good chances to score on the other end of the ice, the Avalanche was able to clear the puck with defenseman Erik Johnson
coming up the left wing side. Johnson fired a shot toward the net, but it deflected off the Red Wings' Niklas Kronwall and banked off the end wall to the front of the crease.
Duchene was crashing the net and knocked the puck in for his 20th goal of the season.
"It starts with a good D-zone. I think everybody picked up their man low," Duchene said of the scoring sequence. "Our wingers collapsed and turned the puck over for us. E.J. took a good shot; it came out, lucky bounce. It's nice to get those lucky ones now and than. I don't see too many of those, so its nice to have one bounce."
The goal also marked Duchene's 250th point of his career, and he would soon notch his point No. 251 of his career (102 goals, 149 assists). He assisted on PA Parenteau's game-tying goal at 5:49 of the third period.
THE TEAM IS SET
The Avalanche has its team that it will finish the regular season with.
With Wednesday's trade deadline coming and going, and with Colorado not making any subtractions to its roster, there was an audible sigh of relief by the team.
Executive vice president of hockey operations Joe Sakic has said that the club has good chemistry, and that the 2013-14 group has the right to finish the season and—as head coach Patrick Roy's has said—continue "to shock the hockey world."
Avalanche center Paul Stastny's name had been tossed around in the days prior to the trade embargo, but Stastny remains an Av now that the deadline has passed and said he's thrilled to be finishing the season with Colorado.
"I think we’ve got something special here,” Stastny said Thursday after morning skate. “We have a good group of guys who we feel can do something impactful, not just now but down the road. I think I can still be a part of it, and I’m just going to enjoy it and keep working hard.
“You always get nervous [at the deadline]. You always expect the worse, so if it happens it happens, if it doesn’t it doesn’t. It’s out of your control.”
With the Avalanche's roster just about set—barring any call-ups from Lake Erie—the team can focus on the playoff push and improving its spot in the standings.
“I think we showed a lot of character all year,” said forward PA Parenteau on Thursday morning. “It should be fun that we’re all here for the playoff run and the playoffs.”
MORE POSTGAME NOTES
• Ryan O’Reilly is on a five-game point and assist streak after having two helpers against Detroit. His five-game assist streak sets a new career high. He has nine points (3g/6a) in his last five games.
• Erik Johnson had two assists on Thursday and now has six points (one goal, five assists) in his last three games. He had the winning goal last Sunday against Tampa Bay and had three assists on Tuesday in Chicago.
• Jean-Sebastien Giguere made 35 saves and is now 10-5-0 on the season. He stopped 12 shots in the first period, 10 in the second, 12 in the third, and the only one he faced in overtime.
• Colorado is now 14-5-0 in its last 19 contests and 18-6-1 in its last 25. The Avs have the most wins (18) and points (37) of any NHL team since Dec. 31.
• The Avs are now 18-7-1 against Eastern Conference teams this year, 9-3-1 at home and 9-4-0 on the road. Colorado is 31-11-2 against Eastern Conference opponents since the start of the 2011-12 season, 51-21-8 since 2009-10 and 79-41-8 since 2005-06.
ColoradoAvalanche.com's Scott Ward contributed to this story