AVALANCHE

Avs rival pays Nathan MacKinnon the highest compliment

Mar 13, 2024, 2:45 PM | Updated: 2:47 pm

If anyone knows what it’s like to play with Nathan MacKinnon, it’s Nikita Zadorov. The Russian defenseman spent five years playing alongside MacKinnon for the Colorado Avalanche but now plays for one of the team’s biggest rivals—the Vancouver Canucks.

Ahead of the matchup in British Columbia on Wednesday of two teams near the top of the West, Zadorov had some kind words for MacKinnon. He called the Avalanche forward not only the best player in the world but said if was starting a team with anyone it would be MacKinnon because of his career’s successes.

Zadorov played in 33 playoff games for the Avs but never was able to make it past the second round. Two years after leaving Colorado the Avalanche got the job done on the back of MacKinnon, winning the Stanley Cup in 2022.

Zadorov was shipped to Chicago in a trade that didn’t really work out for either team, spent time in Calgary then was sent across western Canada earlier this season in a deal for draft picks.

Meanwhile in Calgary, while the Flames season has fallen apart, another former Avs player had nice things to say about MacKinnon on Tuesday. Cup-winner Nazem Kadri made it clear he’ll always root for Nate. MacKinnon notched a goal and an assist in that game, a 6-2 Avs win. It kept Mac hot, tallying points in 13-straight contests and he just had earned top star of the week honors on Monday for his performance last week.

MacKinnon is now at 41 goals and 72 assists, which puts him six points ahead of Nikita Kucherov at 107 points for tops in the league. Along with the Art Ross race for most points, MacKinnon is also pacing the Hart race for league MVP. Aside from the one-of-a-kind production, the way MacKinnon conducts himself obviously stuck with Big Z, an 11-year NHL veteran.

Zadorov’s comments carry a little more weight in a roundabout way because his current teammate is 24-year-old Quinn Hughes, who lost the Calder (Rookie of the Year) to Cale Makar. Zadorv also plays Connor McDavid quite a bit but he’s still picking the 28-year-old MacKinnon for his team—granted only one has hoisted a cup.

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Avs rival pays Nathan MacKinnon the highest compliment