Close-knit family keeps Nathan MacKinnon on track | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in CanadaClose-knit family keeps Nathan MacKinnon on track

Posted: Thursday, December 13, 2012 | 09:30 PM

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Nathan MacKinnon, from Cole Harbour, N.S., has drawn comparisons to Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press) Nathan MacKinnon, from Cole Harbour, N.S., has drawn comparisons to Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

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Nathan MacKinnon and his Halifax Mooseheads teammate Jonathan Drouin joined some elite company when the 17-year-old teammates made the 23-player Canadian junior team on Thursday.

CALGARY -- News travelled swiftly on Thursday, all the way to the Halifax Metro Centre that the Mooseheads' prized pair of 17-year-olds, Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin, had cracked the 23-player roster of the Canadian junior team.

So when an announcement informed the crowd at the Mooseheads game, the fans rose to their feet and gave the kids a rousing standing ovation.

This sort of accomplishment has been reserved for just a few and deserved the applause. Consider in the two previous NHL lockouts of 1994-95 and 2004-05, only Wade Redden in 1994-95 and Sidney Crosby a decade later were the only 17-years-olds to make the Canadian junior club.

"I haven't thought about that," MacKinnon said. "I'm just relieved and happy that I've made the team. We still have a couple weeks to go before the tournament begins, so I have to earn my ice time. But I'm proud of this accomplishment and it's nice to be able to share this with Jonathan."

Both Drouin and MacKinnon are considered the top contenders to be drafted first overall in the 2013 NHL draft and this may be their only chance to play for Canada at the under-20 world championship because they likely will be in the NHL next year.

"I don't like to think that far ahead," MacKinnon said. "If I'm in the NHL next year it would be awesome. But I don't want to get too ahead of myself."

While the offensive dynamo Drouin continued to get better every day at the Canadian selection camp to earn his spot, the 5-foot-11, 179-pound MacKinnon exhibited the sort of speed and skill head coach Steve Spott was looking for to fill out his roster.

Crosby comparisons

MacKinnon's achievement will only add to the comparisons he often gets to Crosby. They are different players -- Crosby is so dynamic in all areas of the game, MacKinnon can skate but is not yet as deft with the puck -- but both are from Cole Harbour, N.S. Both went to Shattuck-St. Mary's prep school in Minnesota.

MacKinnon also skated a few times with Crosby in the summer and saw first hand how diligent the game's best player worked on his game.

There is another similarity when you spend time around MacKinnon.

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Like Crosby, he is close to his parents, Kathy and Graham, and his older sister Sarah. When he informed his mom -- who was a competitive swimmer in her day -- of the good news back home she was swimming in tears. Kathy was out with friends at a restaurant, but couldn't contain her joy. Graham took the news in stride.

"He's quiet," Nathan MacKinnon said. "But he was proud of me."

Graham is an old goalie. He was here in Calgary with a constant smile, making sure that if his son required some moral support he was nearby.

"My dad has supported me all the way through," the younger MacKinnon said. "He knows my game better than anyone else. It's definitely nice having him here supporting me and talking to me after every game. He is a great guy. I'm glad he came.

"He's always been there for me. He's been there from the first day and has stayed involved. I owe a lot of my success to him and my family."

The MacKinnons are fortunate that Nathan can live at home during the junior season and keep the family together. But this may be the last year because the NHL will beckon.

Kathy, Graham and Sarah will make the trip to Russia for the world junior tournament, which begins on Dec. 26. They want to share the world junior experience.

It will be a family affair.

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