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Walling: MacKinnon the second coming of Sid the Kid?

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Alex J. Walling
7/24/2011 11:28:20 AM
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Is there a second Sidney Crosby

Probably not, but Nathan MacKinnon has some amazing - if not incredible - similarities to Sid the Kid.

First of all, who is Nathan Mackinnon?
 
He is the most talked about hockey player in these parts of Atlantic Canada and for a 15-year old, his career mirrors Sidney Crosby in so many ways when he was at this stage in his career.

In fact, 10 years ago I interviewed Crosby on the eve of a major full page story on him in the Hockey News.  The News had done stories on 14-year-olds but never a full page item.

By the way, the interview was conducted in Crosby's Cole Harbour home and I was witness to the famed dryer where he took shots.  I told my wife that night that I interviewed the most mature 14 year old that I ever met.

Let's count some of the ways that MacKinnon is similar to Crosby at this stage in his career.

Nathan, like Sidney is from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia.

Like Crosby, he dominated minor hockey. 

Like Sidney he attended the prep school at Shattuck St Mary's in Faribault, Minnesota, recording an eye-popping 85 points in 34 games.

MacKinnon was the number one overall pick of the QMJHL midget draft - the same as Sid. MacKinnon accomplished that last month, being taken by the Baie Comeau Drakkar.
 
Crosby had a good Canada Winter Games as did the young MacKinnon.

The comparisons continue with Crosby having Pat Brisson as his agent.  I'm not sure if midget kids can have agents, so Mackinnon has an "advisor," the same Pat Brisson.

This week, the biggest franchise in Atlantic Canada - the Halifax Mooseheads - who've had a porous last three years, got MacKinnon via the trade route.

Growing up in Cole Harbour, MacKinnon's parents billeted the Mooseheads.

Mackinnon thought, like Crosby, of going through the U.S. college system.  Last week, when the Mooseheads got his rights, he decided to stay in Halifax and play in the Q.

The Baie Comeau team did not want to trade him as they felt he could be an impact, if not a franchise player, but there are no English schools in and around Baie Comeau; hence the trade.

Baie Comeau Drakkar got a lot for him, including the Mooseheads best player last season - Francis Turbide, and three first round draft choices.

But the Mooseheads feel he is worth it.

MacKinnon's family has followed the Moose since their inception and Nathan since he was a child.

MacKinnon is a 5'11 centre, weighing 170 lbs with room to grow.  Brian Urquhart, the Mooseheads' vice-president of business operations, says the arrival of MacKinnon has already resulted in increased season ticket sales.

"Things are pretty slow in July but they have been active since we got him," says Urquhart.

Cam Russell is the GM of the Mooseheads and says MacKinnon is worth what he gave up.

"He is the best player in the draft and will in his first year as a junior, providing he doesn't get hurt, will be on the best players on the team. He is a power-forward with seldom seen top-end speed. He's up and going at top-end speed faster than anyone I've seen in a long time," says Russell, who played for the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks.

In February, he excelled for Nova Scotia in the Canada Winter Games which were held here. He starred leading the team in scoring and by a wide margin. He scored eight goals and 11 points to finish in a tie for fourth place in tournament scoring. This was accomplished with a poor Nova Scotia team.

In those games, many scouts thought he was the best player in the tournament and some suggested he's the early favourite to be the first overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft.

He is looked on as the most talent player to come into the Q from the midget ranks since Crosby, who was in Rimouski between 2003-05 where he took home Player of the Year in all of the CHL.

MacKinnon looked at the U.S. college system in making his choices just like Crosby did at this stage of his career.  Crosby opted for Rimouski where he was home schooled and learned French.

He's been described as a "tremendous talent' and a "complete" player who can hit, shoot, makes plays and is an outstanding player.

He has also been described as a kid with an "edge" and very "driven" which separates him at that age.

MacKinnon's arrival has perked up season sales.

The Mooseheads for years had been one of the better teams in the Q, having made a run for the Presidents Cup and a trip to the Memorial Cup on two occasions and losing twice in game seven.

But the last three years have been bad ones, with the team finishing at the bottom of the league one season and close to it the other seasons.

The past three or four summers have been dull, hockey-wise, here and the attendance that once was one of the best in this country has had a steep decline.

That will stop this season.  People are anxiously awaiting training camp and the arrival of maybe another Sid Crosby.

For TSN.ca, I'm Alex J. Walling.

Alex J.can be reached via email at:  ajw@eastlink.ca

Nathan MacKinnon (Photo: TSN.ca)

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(Photo: TSN.ca)
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