NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - Nathan MacKinnon and Sidney Crosby now share more than a hometown.
They’ve both been No. 1 picks in the NHL draft.
The Avalanche won the draft lottery for the first time in team history and Joe Sakic, the man put in charge of Colorado’s rebuilding project, had made it clear that MacKinnon was going to be the top pick. He was the first player drafted No. 1 overall out of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League since the Pittsburgh Penguins selected Crosby in 2005.
MacKinnon and Crosby are both from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia.
“I love Sid. He’s my favorite player,” MacKinnon said. “I guess he’s still my favorite player. I don’t really know what to say now since I’m going to be in the same league as him. I don’t know if I should dislike him or not.”
MacKinnon, a 6-foot, 182-pound center, said it all with a laugh. But he’s serious about making the big club this season with Colorado.
“Hopefully, I can make the team and stick there,” MacKinnon said. “I feel like I can be a contributor next year.”
MacKinnon is a solid two-way presence with strong hands and stick-handling and skating skills. He is considered a natural scorer and an excellent distributor. Sakic, a former Avalanche captain who is now the executive vice president of hockey operations, ended the guessing game in the final week when he said MacKinnon would be their pick.
“They said it in the media but I didn’t really get my hopes up,” MacKinnon said. “I was definitely more nervous than I expected to be a couple of minutes before the draft.”
He played for the Halifax Mooseheads and led them to the Memorial Cup championship. MacKinnon, who turns 18 on Sept. 1, was named tournament MVP after scoring 13 points.
Next stop, Colorado?
“So proud to be part of the (at)Avalanche organization!!!” he tweeted to more than 45,000 followers.
That was just the start of a busy day at the home of the New Jersey Devils, who gave a jam-packed crowd a reason to cheer when the announced they acquired goaltender Cory Schneider from Vancouver. Schneider seems in line to be the eventual successor to Martin Brodeur in net.
The rest of the teams were busy planning their future through the draft.