Nathan MacKinnon only has four goals but his record-breaking playmaking pace tops the NHL

Jan 6, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon (29) fist bumps the bench during the third period after his third goal of the game against the Winnipeg Jets at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: John Leyba-USA TODAY Sports

Nathan MacKinnon’s third-period goal against the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday was just his fourth of the season. But the Avalanche superstar is enjoying the best production of his career — and the best in Avs history — through 20 games.

Despite missing a third of the season so far, MacKinnon is on pace to not only eclipse 100 points for the first time, but potentially reach 100 assists. And through 20 games, his 33 points and 29 assists are the most any Avalanche player has ever had.

MacKinnon had four assists against the Jets, all of which were goals by linemates Gabriel Landeskog (three) and Mikko Rantanen (one). His lone tally was his first in six games.

“Obviously I want to score more goals,” MacKinnon said after Colorado dominated Winnipeg 7-1 at Ball Arena. “But a lot of my assists are coming from shooting and Mikko and Gabe going to the net like tonight. So obviously trying to playmake but still want to generate a ton of shots and hopefully try to find some more goals.”

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Shooting the puck more is something that has become a factor in his latest surge in points. MacKinnon had eight shots on Thursday and has had talks with coach Jared Bednar about utilizing his shot to generate more opportunities for Colorado.

He wasn’t shooting the puck as much earlier in the season but has since worked on changing that.

“I think he’s been a little bit snakebit with his shooting,” Bednar said on Thursday. “Maybe there’s been portions of the season where he hasn’t been shooting it as much. He’s been looking to distribute the puck a little bit more.”

Despite the lack of shots at times, Bednar doesn’t believe MacKinnon has changed his game from past seasons.

“Recently we’ve had some conversations making sure that he continues to take shots when he gets into scoring areas if he feels like that’s a ploy and that’s his read,” Bednar said Thursday. “I thought he did that in Chicago and I thought he did it again tonight.”

While unlikely, if MacKinnon’s pace of four goals every 20 games continues all year, it’ll tie the lowest of his career — 14 goals in 2014-15.

“It’s not only about that,” MacKinnon said of his lack of goals. “I guess it’s easy to say that when you’re not scoring. But I’m trying to help out in a lot of different ways and have been shooting it and getting assists that way.”

Because of his playmaking abilities, MacKinnon leads the NHL in points per game (1.65). He passed Edmonton superstar Connor McDavid after his five-point performance.

If the goals come and the assists continue, MacKinnon could run away with the Art Ross Trophy — a feat he is yet to accomplish in his career. And as long as he doesn’t miss any more time, he’d do it in just 72 games.

But the point-producing pace needs to continue if he has any chance to get there. MacKinnon’s 33 points match Landeskog and are three fewer than Rantanen, who has 36.

“We’ve had good starts before,” MacKinnon said. “But sometimes our second half hasn’t been as strong so we’re looking to be a consistent line for hopefully 82 games this year.”

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Aarif Deen
 is our Colorado Avalanche beat reporter. He covers Avs games live from Ball Arena and attends practices, media availabilities and other events pertaining to the Avs on the daily beat. He is also a co-host of Hockey Mountain High: Your go-to Avalanche Podcast. Deen joined Mile High Sports upon completion of his bachelor’s degree in journalism and master’s in business administration from the University of Michigan – Dearborn. Before Mile High Sports, Deen worked for the Michigan Wolverines Athletics Department as the assistant sports information director.

Follow him on Twitter @runwriteAarif

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