"Nate the Great"? Sounds too cliché. "Nate the Skate"? Perhaps.
The Great Nate Debate of 2013 is for more than a nickname, of course. The story of the 2013 MasterCard Memorial Cup was all about the top prospects headlining the event. Nathan MacKinnon's name perhaps wasn't in the biggest type on the marquee, but he out-played and out-produced his rivals on the largest stage he could—the Sunday finale.
Final score: Halifax - 6, Portland - 4. MacKinnon's three goals, one in the first and one in the second (plus an empty netter), were followed up by an assist he earned by cutting to the net and teammate Konrad Abeltshauser followed up with the garbage. If MacKinnon's insurance goal didn't seal the game, and the QMJHL's first Memorial Cup in Western Canada since 1980,
The Halifax Mooseheads are champions. Primarily, they're the QMJHL champions, but they won the CHL's showcase event as well in defining fashion. They beat WHL Champion Portland 7-4 in the round robin, and OHL Champs London 9-2. All that was left was a Sunday finish, and the Mooseheads showed up, taking an early lead and never relinquishing.
No. 1 Star - Nathan MacKinnon, Halifax Mooseheads
And it was MacKinnon's night. Perhaps Jonathan Drouin is the better playmaker and puck-carrier of the two. There have been other nights this season, surely, when MacKinnon was far and away the better player of the Mooseheads' dynamic duo. It helps that the world got to see his star shine after a disappointing December tournament at the World Juniors when Team Canada coach Steve Spott nailed him to the bench and kept him on the fourth line.
MacKinnon, who had been propped up as a player who perhaps could have gone ahead of Nail Yakupov of the Sarnia Sting last season if he had been draft-eligible, was quiet. It wasn't his fault, but MacKinnon showed what he can do in front of a national audience all week. With four points on Sunday, he cleared Portland's Ty Rattie in the tournament's leading point-getters, finishing with 13 in just four games, and two hat-tricks against the stingy defence of the Portland Winterhawks.
In the first, he snapped a clean wrist shot past Portland goaltender Mac Carruth. In the third, he took advantage of a bouncing puck in front of the net, chipping it over Carruth's outstretched right limbs. He had a pair of assists and dazzled the crowd with his skill in the offensive zone. If the sound of last season's finale in Shawinigan was emphasized by air horns, the sounds of Saskatoon was 11,000 onlookers buzzing with each Moosehead possession.
No. 2 Star - Konrad Abeltshauser, Halifax Mooseheads
Abeltshauser is a rare player who uses up both overage and import slots. Good thing he did, because the Good Man from Bad Tolz scored a couple of goals for the Halifax Mooseheads in the Sunday final. Jonathan Drouin tee'd up a pass for him on a first period powerplay, and he followed up MacKinnon's drive to the net in the third with a garbage goal that held up as the winner.
No. 3 Star - Ty Rattie, Portland Winterhawks
Rattie's goal late in the third period made things pretty interesting, another terrific wrist shot from the Airdrie Assassin that claimed another water bottle resting on helpless meshing.
But it wasn't enough. Neither were his three assists, or dominant control over Portland's offence. Rattie factored in on every Portland goal, including a pair of late ones that made the game close.
Game Grade: A couple of paragraphs deleted from the word processors of deadline writers, which is nice for a change. Both Halifax and Portland play a fun up-tempo style and this was a very good game, even if the outcome wasn't in doubt until the very end. It was the best game of the tournament by far, and the best offensive players on either side were the ones that showed up. A.