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MacKinnon usurps McDavid in TSN's mid-season player ranking

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The first crack in a near decade-and-a-half Crosby-McDavid dynasty has appeared.

Nathan MacKinnon is TSN’s mid-season choice as the NHL’s No. 1 player.

And why wouldn’t he be?

MacKinnon entered the NHL all-star break on a 13-game point streak, highlighted by seven goals and 11 points in his past three games.

Colorado’s brilliant centre collected seven first-place votes in balloting among 10 TSN experts asked to rank the NHL’s Top 25 players based on first-half performance.

While it is comparing (road) apples to oranges (mid-season to pre-season), MacKinnon has, in the minds of our voters, usurped Connor McDavid – who attracted the remaining three first-place votes – as hockey’s best player. At least for the moment.

(Historical note: hockey’s original puck was frozen horse manure, aka road apples.)

In October, McDavid earned No. 1 status in pre-season player ranking for the seventh straight season. This, after Sidney Crosby held the honour seven consecutive years.

But the consensus view is very much that MacKinnon has been the NHL’s most spectacular player from start to finish of the unofficial first half of the season marked by the upcoming All-Star Game. Even if he hasn’t been the highest scorer.

Tampa Bay’s thinking-man’s player, Nikita Kucherov, No. 3 in the TSN poll, has earned a league-leading 85 points in 49 games without appearing to break a sweat.

MacKinnon has 84 points in 49 games while playing the game with a burning intensity that may best be compared to the legendary Rocket Richard.

One of Kucherov or MacKinnon has held the NHL scoring lead every single day since Nov. 23 – a period of more than two months.

Lightning fans may wonder how Kucherov landed at No. 3 on the mid-season list after outscoring McDavid by 18 points (85-67), albeit in six more games.

While MacKinnon was a definitive choice as No. 1 with 470 voting points, McDavid and Kucherov were separated by just two voting points (423-421).

It speaks to McDavid’s outsized impact on the ice that he gets the nod over the Kucherov – even if the latter is on pace for 142 points, just 11 fewer than McDavid’s monumental 153-point 2022-23 season.

McDavid has recovered from a tepid start to lead Edmonton on a 16-game winning streak, second-longest in NHL history. He has eight points in his past three games – including four goals.

Goals have been harder to come by for McDavid this season. With 20 in 43 games, he is on pace for 37 in 80 games, a substantive drop from a career- and league-high 64 last season.

Toronto titan Auston Matthews is ranked only No. 4 even though he is on pace for 70 (!) goals, which would be the most since 1992-93. His 40 goals and 18 assists place him 12th in points (58).

A final thought on the Crosby-McDavid ice age: It is far from over.

Crosby is No. 11 in the mid-season ranking.

At 36, he is three years older than anyone else in the Top 25 and, with 27 goals, on pace for 48.

Still within his grasp is becoming the oldest 50-goal scorer in NHL history.

The rest of the highest-echelon players are:

- No. 5 Cale Makar and No. 6 Quinn Hughes are on pace to become the first two defencemen to earn 100 points in the same season and are separated by a single voting point in TSN balloting

- No. 7 David Pastrnak is headed for a second career season of 50-plus goals and 100-plus points. He is one of two players who is ranked at the mid-season precisely where he ranked in the pre-season poll. Victor Hedman (No. 23) is the other.

- No. 8 Miko Rantanen is on track to join Teemu Selanne (684 goals, career 1.00 points per game) and Jari Kurri (601, 1.12) as the most efficient scoring Finns of all-time. Rantanen is averaging 1.07 points over his career.

- No. 9 Winnipeg’s franchise player Connor Hellebuyck is the backbone of the Jets’ shocking rise this season and has the inside track on a second Vezina Trophy.

- No. 10 and impending restricted free agent Elias Pettersson is setting himself up for a massive payday; he’s on pace for career highs in goals (45) and points (107) 

Other noteworthy results include:

- Vancouver’s Thatcher Demko (No. 18 ) is the only goalie other than Hellebuyck to make the Top 25.

- Colorado has three players among the top eight (MacKinnon, Makar, Rantanen) and Vancouver, three among the first 12 (Hughes, Pettersson, No. 12 J.T. Miller). Miller is the highest-ranked player to not make the pre-season Top 50.

- Three players unofficially entered the league elite arguably for the first times in their career: No. 15 Sam Reinhart, No. 17 Zach Hyman and No. 22 Noah Dobson.

- The highest-ranked pre-season players to not make the Top 25 are: Jason Robertson (No. 11 pre-season), Kirill Kaprizov (No. 12) and Adam Fox (No. 16), who has missed 10 games.

- New Jersey’s Jack Hughes finished at No. 19 despite playing just 32 games because of injuries.

- Also not on the Top 25, and, arguably, the biggest victim of an injury this season is reigning Stanley Cup-champion goalie Adin Hill. The Golden Knight recently returned from a near two-month absence and picked up where he left off, stopping 76 of 80 shots against (.950 save percentage) in wins over the Islanders and Rangers. Thompson’s season-long stats – 1.94 GAA, .936 – are tops in the league, but his 17 starts are about half that of workhorse No. 1 goalies.

 

TSN's Top 25 NHL Players

 
Player Pos October RK GP  G A PTS
1. Nathan MacKinnon, Col C 3 49 31 53 84
2. Connor McDavid, Edm C 1 43 20 47 67
3. Nikita Kucherov, TB RW 8 49 32 53 85
4. Auston Matthews, Tor C 5 46 40 18 58
5. Cale Makar, Col RD 4 44 12 46 58
6. Quinn Hughes, Van LD 34 49 12 50 62
7. David Pastrnak, Bos RW 7 49 33 39 72
8. Mikko Rantanen, Col RW 10 49 27 39 66
9. Connor Hellebuyck, Wpg G 43 35 2.20 .924 2
10. Elias Pettersson, Van C 15 49 27 37 64
11. Sidney Crosby, Pit C 13 46 27 23 50
12. J.T. Miller, Van C/LW - 49 21 46 67
13. Artemi Panarin, NYR LW 30 49 30 36 66
14. Leon Draisaitl, Edm C 2 45 23 34 57
15. Sam Reinhart, Fla C - 49 37 25 62
16. William Nylander, Tor LW 40 47 23 38 61
17. Zach Hyman, Edm LW - 44 30 17 47
18. Thatcher Demko, Van G - 35 2.44 .920 5
19. Jack Hughes, NJ C 9 32 15 30 45
20. Sebastian Aho, Car C 35 45 17 37 54
21. Brayden Point, TB C 17 50 25 29 54
22. Noah Dobson, NYI D - 49 6 46 52
23. Victor Hedman, TB LD 23 48 9 41 50
24. Mitch Marner, Tor RW 14 47 20 33 53
25. Matthew Tkachuk, Fla LW/RW 6 49 16 35 51