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MacKinnon, The Avs' Latest Moosehead

by Scott Ward / Colorado Avalanche

Alex Tanguay did it. So did Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

Will newcomer Nathan MacKinnon follow suit?

The “it” refers to Avalanche players who once played, starred and ultimately had their jersey numbers retired by the Halifax Mooseheads (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League) before moving onto successful NHL careers.

Tanguay, who had 101 goals and scored 214 points in three years with Halifax, and Giguere, who goaltended the Mooseheads to 68 wins and played in 29 QMJHL playoff games, are two of just three players in Halifax history who have seen their jerseys lifted to franchise immortality.

Eleven-year NHL veteran Jody Shelley, who retired this past August, is the other.

Now the question is if MacKinnon, the Avalanche’s top overall selection in June’s NHL Draft, will join Tanguay and Giguere in the Halifax Metro Centre rafters after helping lead the Mooseheads in May to their first QMJHL President’s Cup win and Canadian Hockey League Memorial Cup victory.

"The Moosehead alumni are going to be very well-represented in the [Avalanche] dressing room, for sure,” Tanguay said. “In juniors things change a whole lot more then they do in the NHL, so there isn't a lot of people left from the time that I was [in Halifax], but certainly you look back at the teams of where you come from, and looking at what Nathan did this year was great to see, for sure."

Added Giguere: “I played with Alex in his first year (1996-97), and he was great that year, and he is still a great player. Nathan, it remains to be seen, but he is pretty good right now.”

In two seasons in Halifax, MacKinnon scored 63 goals and totaled 153 points in 102 regular-season games. He was the Memorial Cup MVP in May, scoring a hat trick and dishing two assists in the championship game.

MacKinnon was first selected No. 1 overall by Baie-Comeau Drakkar out of Minnesota’s Shattuck-St. Mary’s prep school in the 2011 QMJHL Entry Draft, but a trade to Halifax—his hometown team—set in motion a dynamic two-year career that catapulted him to the top spot in this summer’s NHL Draft.

He became just the ninth player to ever be selected first overall in a CHL draft and the NHL Draft, joining an elite list of stars, including Mario Lemieux, Sidney Crosby, Eric Lindros, Steven Stamkos and John Tavares, and his selection by Colorado this summer gave the Avalanche the most Mooseheads alumni of any team in the NHL.

“Obviously those guys are pretty special players,” MacKinnon said of his select draft company, “and to be in that category is pretty awesome. Hopefully I can be that type of player one day.”

If he does, he’ll have his time with Halifax to look back on and possibly a jersey number in the rafters to look up to.

“[The Mooseheads] opened up so [many] doors for me and [Tampa Bay’s 2013 first-round selection] Jon [Drouin],” MacKinnon said at the Draft. “Definitely an unbelievable couple years there, and winning the Memorial Cup was a great way to go out.”

But MacKinnon’s story isn’t finished yet. Not by a long shot.

The next chapter is just beginning for the 18 year old, and he’s got an exciting road ahead of him. If he ever needs direction on the journey, he’ll only need to talk to Tanguy and Giguere, who followed a similar path.

“Hockey wise, it was a great experience,” Giguere said of playing in Halifax. “It gave me the opportunity to learn English, which at the time I didn't know.

"My Halifax experience was great. I have a lot of great memories from it. I still have a lot of friends in Halifax. I still spend two weeks of my summer there, and my wife is from Halifax. There are a lot of good memories.”

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