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Training Camp

Nathan MacKinnon practices with Avalanche

Defenseman Erik Johnson also on ice with NHL team for first time after World Cup

by Rick Sadowski / Correspondent

CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- The Colorado Avalanche welcomed forward Nathan MacKinnon and defenseman Erik Johnson to practice Monday following their participation in the World Cup of Hockey 2016.

MacKinnon had a strong performance for Team North America, which was comprised of players 23 or younger from Canada and the United States. The team did not advance from the preliminary round despite its 2-1-0 record.

The 21-year-old scored a highlight-reel overtime goal against Team Sweden and had two goals in a pretournament win against Team Europe.

"I didn't know I had that move in me, to be honest," he said of the OT goal against Team Sweden goalie Henrik Lundqvist. "It [stinks] that we didn't move on, but it was fun playing with those guys and now it's time to get back. Competing against the world's best and being successful as a team and as an individual feels good. It's nice to succeed in any kind of game, but against countries' best players, it feels that much better."

Johnson, who averaged 23:26 in ice time for the Avalanche last season, had a limited role with Team USA, which went 0-3-0.

"It was disappointing, but not a lot of people get the opportunity to represent their country at the highest level," he said. "That's always an honor, but the result obviously wasn't what we wanted.

"I haven't played limited ice time like that in a long time, so it was a different kind of experience. You definitely get an appreciation for the guys who play third and fourth line 82 games a year to see how they have to stay into it mentally. It's tough not going out there every other shift like you're used to. To get that perspective is a good learning experience."

MacKinnon and Johnson stayed off the ice for three days after arriving in Denver on Friday, and they spent about an hour Sunday watching videotape with first-year coach Jared Bednar, who is implementing a new up-tempo system.

"They're intelligent guys," Bednar said. "They got in a little bit of a cram session and they're going to get to review it and review it through practices every day. You've got to get these guys back integrated with the group."

Forwards Gabriel Landeskog and Carl Soderberg, who played for Team Sweden, are expected to practice later this week, along with goalie Semyon Varlamov, who played for Team Russia. Center Matt Duchene is playing for Team Canada, which will face Team Europe in the best-of-3 tournament final.

"I feel good," said MacKinnon, who signed a seven-year, $44.1 million contract July 8. "It was a tough practice, getting used to altitude. I just want to grow as a player. I want to be a solid player every game. I feel very ready for the season. I don't look at points scored, I just want to be the best player I can be."

Video: DET@COL: MacKinnon unleashes top-shelf goal on rush

MacKinnon said he was shocked by Patrick Roy's decision to resign as coach and vice president of hockey operations on Aug. 11, but he's impressed with Bednar.

"He's a really smart guy, I really like him," MacKinnon said. "He explains himself really well, he's very clear. He's going to demand a lot of me, which I like; I like that from a coach. I'm excited for the season, I think it's going to be a bounce-back season for us."

The Avalanche were sixth in the Central Division last season with 82 points, five behind the Minnesota Wild for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference.

Bednar said he plans to use MacKinnon as a center, his natural position. MacKinnon, who won the Calder Trophy in 2014 after being the No. 1 pick at the 2013 NHL Draft, has played center and wing in his three seasons with the Avalanche; he has 56 goals and 94 assists in 218 NHL games.

"I loved the way he played on the wing in the tournament, but [center] is his position," Bednar said. "We're not saying he's not going to play both. We're still going to experiment as we go through camp and find some combinations that work, and we have to keep looking at some of the other guys as well."

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