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For the past two decades the Calgary Flames franchise has attempted to fill their to center positions with low cost or washed up bandaid solutions that simply weren't the answer. To put this into better perspective, the Flames top 2 scoring Centerman since the 1996 season have been Robert Reichel (354 points in 425 games) and Craig Conroy (308 points in 507 games).
The last true number 1 center to dawn the Flaming C was Joe Nieuwendyk (616 points in 577 games). These numbers better reflect what one would expect from a number 1 center.
What's more disheartening is the fact the Flames traded Joe Nieuwendyk for their current franchise leader is goals and points in Jarome Iginla. This would mean Jarome Iginla's entire tenure as a Calgary Flame had him playing without a true number 1 center.
Flames ownership over the years attempted to fill the number 1 center spot with guys like Craig Conroy, Daymond Langkow, Olli Jokinen, Marc Savard, German Titov, Michael Nylander and the list goes on and on. None of the aforementioned players are true number 1 centers, with the exception of Savard who for a few healthy years in Boston did fill that role admirably.
More recently Feaster made a valiant effort to try and land Ryan O'Reilly which has also been well publicized as almost the largest disaster in Flames team history due to an oversight of the new CBA rules. O'Reilly also depending on which scout you ask is not a true number 1 center either but Flames scouts clearly had him pegged as just that. Blunder aside, Flames ownership have made it clear their intent is to land that coveted number 1 center for the organization.
Fast forward to the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. The Flames currently set tied with Carolina for a bottom 3 spot in the upcoming draft which is aruguably one of the deepest drafts since 2003. The Flames have a chance to draft a player that could change the face of their franchise for the next few decades.
Enter Nathan MacKinnon.
Nathan MacKinnon is the protypical number 1 center any NHL team would love to have on their club. In 44 regular season games with the Halifax Mooseheads he accumulated 75 points and a +40 rating. In 8 playoff games to date he has 15 points.
Some may argue he didn't have a strong World Junior showing. MacKinnon was summoned to 3rd and 4th line duty at the World Juniors and didn't get any time playing on the powerplay. He played far less minutes than a player with his skill level should've been playing and was not given the chance to showcase his talent. These poor coaching choices inaccurately reflect what Nathan MacKinnon is as a player, and in turn these same choices are the reason Canada finished where they did in the tournament.
Nathan is an extremely swift skater with an explosive first step. He can accelerate to top speed in 2-3 simple strides. MacKinnon likes to use his speed to drive to the net and is not afraid to take the puck to dirty areas. He is an excellent puck carrier who can easily handle the puck through traffic from one end of the rink to the other.
MacKinnon has excellent vision on the ice and is the type of player that makes his teammates around him better players. He has a tendency to make a pass that he has no business in making. His hands are very soft which allows him to dangle through and around defenders with ease.
Nathan has one of the quickest releases in all of Junior hockey. To make his quick release even more devastating is the fact he also has an extremely accurate shot.
Arguments have been made that Drouin, Jones, Barkov, etc may be better choices over MacKinnon. Although all are great top prospects, none are more fittingly exactly what a franchise like the Flames need more than Nathan MacKinnon. The Calgary Flames have been longing for this type of player for 2 decades now so if he is available when they are set to make their choice, it would be nothing short of a failure should they choose to bypass him.
Should MacKinnon get chosen before the Flames have a chance then my 2nd choice is Barkov.
Please note I am a 2013 Halifax Mooseheads season ticket holder and Calgary Flames fanatic (since 1986).