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MacKinnon's production surprises his own coach

by Tal Pinchevsky

NEW YORK -- Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche entered Tuesday night leading all NHL rookies with 20 goals and 41 points. He has eight points during a five-game point streak and 12 points in his last eight games.

That kind of production by an 18-year-old, even one who was talented enough to be taken with the first pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, has caught many people off-guard -- including MacKinnon's own coach.

"He's putting up more points than I thought he was going to," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said prior to Colorado's game against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. "Right now he's playing with a lot of confidence. I'm trying to push him a little more. What impresses me most is the consistency he's capable of every night."

That consistency has come as MacKinnon has been promoted from the third line to the second unit. But he's not necessarily surprised by his production, which has helped the Avalanche go 12-3-1 in 2014.

"I don't know if I'm surprised. I don't really have any expectations," MacKinnon said. "I've been playing more comfortably lately and getting more touches with the puck. The points will come and they have been lately. It's been fun."

Roy admits he has been tempted to give his dynamic 18-year-old more minutes, but has instead deferred to younger veterans such as Matt Duchene, Ryan O'Reilly and captain Gabriel Landeskog. That apprenticeship under Colorado's other forwards suits MacKinnon just fine.

"We have so many good forwards that it's nice to balance out the front end," MacKinnon said. "It's good. I don't think I need to play 21-22 [minutes] a night in my first year."

Roy believes he has the perfect mix up front to provide a balanced scoring attack while giving MacKinnon the time he needs as he develops into a star.

"There are nights I could give him more [minutes] and I hold on a little bit," Roy said. "We also have other guys like Duchene, O'Reilly, Landeskog. I think it's the perfect situation for him."

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