Nathan MacKinnon is currently second overall in the Consensus Rankings, but as I mentioned yesterday, there are several scouts who think he should go first. I'll state up front that, based on the information I have now, I've got MacKinnon on top myself.
So what's so great about Nathan MacKinnon? One big feature is that MacKinnon has put up two excellent seasons in the QMJHL despite being one of the youngest players available in this year's draft. In 2011-12, MacKinnon scored 0.59 goals per game and 1.55 points per game (0.57 and 1.49 adjusted), numbers that compare very well to most of the top selections of previous years, and MacKinnon did that as a 16-year-old. Some folks might be worried that he didn't improve those numbers all that much in 2012-13, scoring "just" 0.70 goals per game and 1.77 points per game (0.70 and 1.75 adjusted).
I don't find this lack of improvement at all troubling. When I looked at this question a couple of years ago, I discovered that players who don't show a lot of improvement year-over-year tend to have their results translate to the NHL on a more predictable trajectory. With MacKinnon posting consistently elite results, predictable sounds just fine! In fact, that consistency is one of the main reasons that I've got MacKinnon ahead of his teammate, Jonathan Drouin.
Drouin outscored MacKinnon in 2012-13, but he doesn't have the same year-over-year stability, and some of Drouin's success in 2012-13 looks like it's coming from an unsustainable shooting percentage, which spooks me just a touch. MacKinnon generated 4.62 shots per game in 2012-13 and 3.79 in 2011-12, both of which are ahead of Drouin's 2012-13 total of 3.52 (and well ahead of his 2011-12 total of 2.52). Drouin's 22.8% shooting percentage in 2012-13 is awfully high, and much higher than the 12.7% he shot in 2011-12. MacKinnon, by contrast, is once again much more consistent, shooting 15.2% in 2012-13 and 15.5% in 2011-12.
Note: Big thanks to the QMJHL for actually tracking shots. It sure would be great if the other junior leagues followed suit!
Now, what about MacKinnon's comparables? In this case, a comparable player was someone who played his draft year in the CHL, had an adjusted goals per game rate between 0.63 and 0.77 and adjusted points per game rate between 1.57 and 1.92 (90% to 110% of MacKinnon's production), and was selected with one of the draft's first seven selections. These were the results:
There are a lot of fantastic players in that group, and a couple of duds in the form of Derick Brassard and Daymond Langkow. Now, those two players are the oldest in the group and are also the only two drafted lower than 3rd overall, so it's not like it's a huge concern, but even if those things weren't true, MacKinnon's 16-year-old season again provides reason for hope since neither of those guys had the kind of Draft -1 season that MacKinnon had (totals are once again adjusted for era):
MacKinnon's best comparables from this group are clearly Taylor Hall and Vincent Lecavalier, both very deserving first overall picks themselves. I can understand that some teams might not have MacKinnon at the top of their list, but to me, he represents the best mix of safety and elite talent of any of the players in the discussion.
Next up this afternoon: Jonathan Drouin