That's what Nathan MacKinnon is again now, finally.
It's what he was much of that marvelous rookie season of 2013-14, when he breezed to the Calder Trophy and had seven points in his first two career playoff games. Something got off track after that, and we've been through some of the reasons already. He probably tried to put on too much muscle the following season, got lost on a couple of bad teams the next two seasons and was moved around too much from his natural center position to the wing.
It's all, as hockey players love to say, in the rearview mirror now. The Nathan MacKinnon Avs fans saw on Martin Luther King Jr. Day is the same one we've all seen since around Nov. 5, the day the Avs finally dealt Matt Duchene and his dour demeanor to the Ottawa Senators for what is proving quite the haul in return already—with the promise of much more.
This is a young Avs team—the third-youngest in the NHL, at 25.6 years on average, and MacKinnon is still just 22. It's a democratic team, with Gabe Landeskog as the captain and lots of voices chirping in from the locker-room peanut gallery. But this really feels like MacKinnon's team in some ways now, and it's hard not to believe the best is yet to come.