Nathan MacKinnon said for the first time in his NHL career he believes the Colorado Avalanche are legitimate contenders for the Stanley Cup.
"This is kind of the first year I really felt like we could win," MacKinnon told TSN in remarks published Wednesday. "The first six years of my career, the goal was just to make the [Stanley Cup Playoffs]. I guess this would have been the fourth time I actually made it, but the real first time I guess that I think I could actually win."
Colorado (42-20-8, .657 points percentage) finished second in the Western Conference and will play in a Seeding Round Robin as part of the NHL Return to Play Plan that was announced Tuesday.
The Avalanche, St. Louis Blues, Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars will play each other once to determine the top four Western positions for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"It's great that we can play some meaningful games against the top teams in the West for seeding," MacKinnon said in an episode of "Dreger Café." "... I think that's a pretty good format, how they're doing it. You know, there's no perfect way, everybody had to get creative and it seems like a good place to start."
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MacKinnon played 25 playoff games in his first six NHL seasons, winning one round (2019 first round against Calgary Flames). He scored 29 points (11 goals, 18 assists) in those 25 games.
MacKinnon was one of seven Avalanche regulars who did not play their final game before the NHL season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus; he was scratched with a lower-body injury.
"We have a very, very strong team ... hopefully now we get that closure," the 24-year-old said. "It's going to be a little different. But you didn't really know for a bit if we could finish it up."
This season, MacKinnon was fifth in the NHL with 93 points (35 goals, 58 assists) in 69 games. He was second to Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl in an NHL.com poll to determine who should win the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP.
Colorado's opponent in the Western Conference First Round will be determined by the results of the round-robin and Qualifying Round. A start date or location has not been announced.
"I just want to play. I want to have a chance to win," MacKinnon said. "I think that's what everybody wants."