He was born and raised in Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, the hometown of Sidney Crosby. If he came from anywhere else, comparisons between 17-year-old prodigy Nathan MacKinnon and the Pittsburgh Penguins star still would be made. With the NHL draft a week away, there's a good chance MacKinnon goes No. 1, like his fellow Nova Scotian in 2005.

The Avalanche has the No. 1 pick, already has said it will choose a forward, and is sky-high on MacKinnon. Many scouts believe the Avs will get a player with talent reminiscent of Crosby at that age if they choose MacKinnon.

MacKinnon said he would love to don an Avs sweater at the draft in Newark, N.J., next Sunday. At the recent NHL combine in Toronto, MacKinnon met with Avs scouts and new coach Patrick Roy and came away sounding like the hopeful job prospect who thought the interviews went well.

"The vibe was good. They're serious about taking me. That's what I felt from them," MacKinnon said. "They're definitely making me really comfortable with the idea of going to the Avalanche. It would be a dream come true, and I think that the team has so much upside, so much potential to be a contender in a few years."

The Avalanche already has young, talented centers. So it caught many by surprise when Joe Sakic, the Avs' executive vice president of hockey operations, said last week the team probably will draft a forward if it keeps the No. 1 pick. That means passing up highly touted defenseman Seth Jones. MacKinnon might be too good to pass up, however.

What makes him so good?

"A total package of skill, speed and power," is how MacKinnon's coach with Halifax, Dominique Ducharme, describes him. "He can play a lot of different styles, a power or finesse game, equally well. He's such a gamer, a guy who gets better when there's a big moment."

MacKinnon proved that in the recent Memorial Cup tournament in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. In the championship game against Jones'

Portland Winterhawks, the 6-foot, 182-pound MacKinnon scored a hat trick and added two assists in the Mooseheads' 6-4 victory. In an earlier game in the tournament against Portland, MacKinnon also had three goals and two assists. In four tournament games, he scored seven goals and had 13 points.

MacKinnon's linemate, Jonathan Drouin, also is considered a shoo-in to go in the top three of the draft. A bit smaller (5-11 and 176), he plays on the wing but often is compared to MacKinnon. Ducharme said there are big differences in his dandy duo.

"Jonathan has great hands, soft hands. Nathan has quick hands," Ducharme said. "He can fire pucks from anywhere so fast. His release is so quick. He surprises goalies with quick shots from anywhere. Jonathan is more fluid."

MacKinnon is familiar with Roy's coaching style, having played for him two years in the Subway Super Series, a tournament of Canadian minor-pro teams.