Connor McDavid way ahead of the game
Even though he can't be drafted for two years, Connor McDavid already has scouts drooling
TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency
|Erie Otters forward Connor McDavid during a game against the London Knights at Budweiser Gardens in London, Ont., Oct. 19, 2012. (DEREK RUTTAN/QMI Agency)
TORONTO - Connor McDavid might be his own biggest critic.
Never mind that, the 15-year-old Erie Otters centre probably is his only critic.
Through 18 games in the Ontario Hockey League, McDavid, who was granted exceptional player status by the league last spring and selected first overall by the Otters, has 21 points (eight goals and 13 assists) — enough to tie him for the team lead with Maple Leafs prospect and Erie captain Connor Brown.
Despite that — and a 15-game points streak, broken recently and the longest in the OHL this season — McDavid isn’t overcome with glee when he considers his initial six weeks in major junior hockey.
“I was surprised I had a little bit of success early, but I still think I could be a whole lot better,” the Newmarket native said. “It has been OK. I’m not yet where I need to be.”
Perhaps it’s because the Otters are tied with the Peterborough Petes at the bottom of the OHL standings with 11 points that McDavid refused to see himself in a better light. But even though McDavid, who turns 16 in January, is on the ice in all the crucial times with the Otters, it’s not on his shoulders alone to turn the team around.
And scouts aren’t looking for McDavid to do that. In fact, they don’t necessarily have to look at McDavid at all, as he is not NHL draft eligible until 2015, when everyone thinks he will be the first-overall pick.
But when scouts go to Otters games to observe players who are up for the 2013 draft, McDavid has been getting in the way.
“The first time I saw him was the second weekend of the season in Peterborough, and he was hard not to find from the drop of the puck for the entire game,” Winnipeg Jets head scout Mark Hillier said during the Otters’ 4-1 loss in Mississauga against the Steelheads on Sunday afternoon.
“That’s quite a statement saying the kid was the best player on the ice, and he’s playing against 19- and 20-year-olds who have been in the league three or four years.
“It’s incredible to see a kid with that much ability at that young of an age, and we don’t even have to think about him for two years.”
The best players can make something happen when it doesn’t look like there’s any possibility of that. With the Otters down in the third period of the game against the Steelheads, dominated for the most part and in danger of being shut out, McDavid waited for Mississauga’s Trevor Carrick to commit, and then calmly flipped the puck over the defenceman’s stick. The puck was then deposited into the net by Brown for a power-play goal, the Otters’ only score of the game.
The impression McDavid, despite moving from home at such a young age, has been making off the ice has been just as good.
“He’s a 15-year-old kid who is probably turning 25,” Otters assistant manager of hockey operations Dave Brown said. “He’s quiet and he fits in with the guys with his maturity. Something that makes him such a good person is his humbleness, his ability to blend in.”
What’s scary is that McDavid is on to something when he says that he has not reached his full potential. At 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds, he undoubtedly will grow and fill out, and there’s no telling how much he will control the game in the months that lead up to the 2015 draft.
“(The biggest adjustment) has been the speed and the size of the guys,” McDavid, who will play for the OHL against Russia in the Subway Series on Thursday in Guelph, said. “They are a lot faster and they hit a lot harder, but I’m getting used to it. I can’t shy away out there. The second you’re afraid, that’s when you get hurt. I’ll never back down.
“From a personal standpoint, there are a lot of rookies sitting on the bench, up in the stands. I’m fortunate to get to play a whole bunch and in every situation.”
GROWING UP ON THE ROAD
Hockey is what comes naturally to Connor McDavid.
It’s what’s happening away from the rink for the Erie Otters wunderkind that has taken some adjustment.
“It has been different,” the Newmarket native said of moving to Pennsylvania to play hockey and, in turn, go to school. “Not being able to see my family. My dad (Brian) would have long conversations after games and talk about what I need to work on and what I did good. I sort of miss out on that now, but it has been all right.”
McDavid and Otters head coach Robbie Ftorek meet at least once a week to ensure everything is going as smooth as possible.
“He has been good with me,” McDavid said of Ftorek. “I really appreciate that.”