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Top pick MacKinnon taking nothing for granted

by Tal Pinchevsky /

TORONTO -- As the most valuable player of the Memorial Cup and the No. 1 pick at the 2013 NHL Draft, Nathan MacKinnon likely had his roster spot already reserved when the Colorado Avalanche called his name at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., on June 30.

Those projections were confirmed when new Colorado coach Patrick Roy spoke of MacKinnon at his introductory press conference as if the 17-year-old center (he'll turn 18 on Sept. 1) had already made the team.

But despite all signs pointing to his centering Colorado's third line come the start of the 2013-14 season, MacKinnon isn't making any assumptions about his place on the roster.

"Obviously I still have some things to prove to [Colorado], prove that I belong there."
-- Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon

"It looks like I'll be playing there this year, but I don't want to take anything for granted." MacKinnon told "I still have to round out my game completely. That's what I've been trying to do this summer."

MacKinnon's summer grew more hectic with all the hype that usually surrounds the top pick in the draft. But he's made it clear that he doesn't expect anything to be handed to him this fall. That includes a roster spot that appears to already have his name on it.

On a team that already boasted a talented group of young forwards in Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Paul Stastny and Ryan O'Reilly, MacKinnon should have every opportunity to flourish. For the moment, though, the Nova Scotia native still plans on earning every opportunity.

"I still have the same mentality this summer going into camp," MacKinnon said. "Obviously I still have some things to prove to [Colorado], prove that I belong there."

Aside from his offseason training, MacKinnon has also reached out to other NHL players, looking for any information that could give him even the slightest edge when Avalanche training camp opens in September. Based on what he's heard, MacKinnon will probably stick to what got him this far.

"I've heard some goalies are a little bit different," MacKinnon said. "But those players told me to play the same way and don't change anything."

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