February 15, 2011
The Nathan MacKinnon-Sidney Crosby comparisons are just too easy to pass on. After all, everyone's top prospect for the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League draft is also from Cole Harbour, N.S., and has the Shattuck-St. Mary's U.S. prep school background. At some point, though, shouldn't someone try for another angle?
At a quick glance, MacKinnon's style might owe more to a young Eric Lindros than his fellow Cole Harbourite — he's a big, right-handed centre who's not averse to being mean when it is warranted and is just way more advanced physically than his peers.
Or in this case, players a year older than he:
Still, Crosby-MacKinnon is the the easy storyline. From the The Globe & Mail:
Parallels with the Pittsburgh Penguins star are unavoidable, and the storyline has proved irresistible. But people close to the teenager say it's too much pressure for a young player to bear.
“It's totally unfair to put a kid in that situation,” said Chris Donnelly, who is coaching the Nova Scotia squad at these Games.
“I'm sure if you went back a few years and asked Sidney Crosby if he was the next Wayne Gretzky, he wouldn't have felt too comfortable with that either. I mean, you're talking about one of the most dynamic hockey players in the game. And you're talking about a 15-year-old kid that's still trying to find his way and discover what kind of player he's going to become and what kind of person he's going to be become.”
MacKinnon himself sighs a bit when the question comes up. But he's learned to expect it as part of the off-ice attention. And he handles the media attention well, sitting for interviews and stick-handling the inevitable comparisons.
“It's never fun to be compared to the best player in the world, but I guess I take it as a compliment,” he said after a recent practice, a Penguins hat jammed backward on his head. “I know I'll never be Sidney Crosby. I just want to play my own game and not his. I don'tlike to compare myself to him too much, because you can't, he's too good.”
That sigh might say more about the people doing the asking than the player doing the answering. MacKinnon, for his own sake, has to be allowed to carve his own path. The reality that Nate The Kid is just facepalm-inducing awkward, derivative and lacking in roll-off-the-tongue quality betrays as much. Besides, Next of Kin (sarcasm: you'd swear they're brothers!) is a better handle.
The Q holds a coin flip between the two non-playoff teams for the No. 1 choice. MacKinnon, in a feature with RDS last week, seemed less than enamoured of the idea of joining the Baie-Comeau Drakkar or Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, mentioning the Quebec Remparts, Saint John Sea Dogs, hometown Halifax Mooseheads and Crosby's old Rimouski Océanic as preferred destinations. Huskies coach André Tourigny stated flatly to RDS his team would not trade away the top pick if it falls to them.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.