Nathan MacKinnon said he believes the Colorado Avalanche are the popular choice to win the Stanley Cup this season.
"I guess we're the favorites [or] whatever this season," the Avalanche center said in an episode of The High Button Podcast released this week. "I guess it's a shortened year … but we're excited."
The NHL and NHL Players' Association have agreed to play a 56-game regular season starting Jan. 13, 2021. The agreement was approved Sunday by the NHL Board of Governors and the NHLPA.
The season has been delayed due to continuing concerns surrounding the coronavirus. When it begins, Colorado will play in the realigned West Division with the Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues and Vegas Golden Knights.
The Avalanche lost to the Dallas Stars in seven games in the best-of-7 Western Conference Second Round last season after finishing second in the conference (42-20-8, .657 points percentage).
"I think the big thing, though, is we need to focus on the process of things," MacKinnon said. "We're not going to win a Cup in January to start the season or in training camp. We need to take care of training camp, get better every day. I know it's cliche, but it's true. Play well every night, grow, fix the things and hopefully head into the (Stanley Cup) Playoffs flying. It's all about the Cup for me and I think guys on the team."
MacKinnon was fifth in the NHL last season with 93 points (35 goals, 58 assist) in 69 games, then scored 25 points (nine goals, 16 assists) in 15 postseason games in Edmonton, the hub city for the West. He finished second to Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl in voting for the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP.
Asked how it feels to arguably be the best hockey player in the world, MacKinnon said, "I don't know. My whole life I just wanted to make it to the NHL. My goal wasn't to be the best player in the NHL. My goal my third or fourth season was just to be the best version of myself. And honestly, I was a decent player my first couple years, but I never thought I would get to this level. … I'm in a good place and still trying to get better. Feeling better every year."
MacKinnon said he plans to celebrate Christmas at home in Nova Scotia and will probably travel the next day to Colorado to begin preparing for the season. The Avalanche are scheduled to begin training camp Jan. 3.
Entering his eighth NHL season, all with the Avalanche, MacKinnon said he, forward Gabriel Landeskog and defenseman Erik Johnson are the only players remaining with Colorado from his first season in 2013-14.
"Just the three of us," he said. "… So it'd be special to hopefully win one with those guys."