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MacKinnon's Focus Back On Hockey

by Ron Knabenbauer / Colorado Avalanche

The last couple months have been a whirlwind for Nathan MacKinnon.

Since May, he has won Quebec Major Junior Hockey League championship and the Memorial Cup title with the Halifax Mooseheads, was selected first overall in the NHL Draft, and recently signed his first professional contract, a three-year entry-level deal with the Avalanche.

"The draft was a little more stressful than the contract," he said after signing his first pro deal. "I was hoping it (the contract) would come and it is nice that it finally has, it's something that I can cross off my list of accomplishments. It's kind of the beginning of my professional career, and I'm very excited that I got to sign it."

Nathan MacKinnon's Halifax Mooseheads team after winning the 2013 CHL MasterCard Memorial Cup on May 26.

Now that the paperwork has been signed, the 17-year-old from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia can focus getting ready for his first National Hockey League training camp.

After taking a few weeks off from a grinding 2012-13 campaign that spanned from August to May and included 44 QMJHL regular season games, 21 playoff games, and 11 international games with Team Canada, MacKinnon has been back on the ice and has been training hard for the upcoming season in his home province.

"I think the biggest thing for me is to get physically stronger, and obviously it's a mental grind too," said MacKinnon on what he wants to accomplish this offseason. "I know I have a lot to learn, but I'm excited to go into camp and get everything started."

He will also be training closely with someone that he'll see regularly come September, Avalanche forward Matt Duchene – who also has been training in Nova Scotia and shares the same offseason trainer as MacKinnon.

"I'm sure I'll be seeing lots of him (Duchene) this summer and hopefully over the next decade," MacKinnon said. "Definitely, a good guy to know and at least I know somebody going into training camp."

MacKinnon's relationship with Duchene began last summer while the two players were training in Los Angeles and Nova Scotia in preparation for the 2012-13 hockey season.

2012-13 Stats with halifax (QMJHL)
Goals: 32 | Assists: 43 | Pts: 75
PIM: 45 | +/-: +40
With the two players now being teammates, Duchene said he wants to help the rookie in his transition to professional hockey.

"We were already texting once or twice a week prior, and we're just really starting to get to know each other," said Duchene last month before he traveled to Nova Scotia to continue his offseason conditioning. "He knows that he can come to me if he has any questions or if I can help with his adjustment to the league."

Colorado head coach Patrick Roy also knows how important MacKinnon's adjustment from the junior ranks to the NHL is and said that he is not going to overwhelm the rookie with too much responsibility early on.

"I know he is ready, I've seen him play enough," Roy said. "But we'll have to be patient at the start, give him a chance to adapt – I'm not going to compare junior to the NHL – just give him the time to feel good."

Still, MacKinnon understands that his first professional season isn't going to be easy, but he is looking forward to the challenge.

"Obviously it's going to be tough my first year, but I am looking to have as much success as I can," he said. "I know that it is going to be a tough league and it's going to be a fun year."

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