The teen idol had four points in a thrashing of Niagara as the top prospect for the 2015 draft strutted his stuff on NHL ice in a special Ontario League game in Buffalo.
Fans in Buffalo can’t wait for Connor McDavid to come to the Sabres – in fact, some of them already have jerseys with his name and No. 97 on the back. A little matter of the draft lottery stands in their way, but for one magical night, McDavid was wearing gold and blue and tearing around First Niagara Center.
Sure, he was wearing the Erie Otters’ third jersey, but there was no doubt who the majority of the nearly 12,000 fans came to see as the Otters beat on the Niagara Ice Dogs 8-4 in a special Ontario League game last night.
McDavid had a goal and four points on the night, doubling the two points draft rival Jack Eichel put up a month earlier in the same NHL rink when the Boston University freshman starred at the All-American Prospects Game. McDavid, who now has an incredible 29 points in 10 games, was a force all game long. His most awe-inspiring move came on a rush when he pulled the rug out from fellow 2015 prospect Vince Dunn:
Otters coach Kris Knoblauch has seen that kind of magic before, though every highlight move is like a snowflake.
“Once a night or more,” Knoblauch said, “he’ll do something where you say to yourself, ‘Never thought of that before.’ ”
McDavid, who has already drawn comparisons to the best players in the game, shares the same combination of confidence and humility that players such as Sidney Crosby and John Tavares have and tried to minimize his own genius.
“It’s not a whole lot of thinking,” McDavid said. “It kinda has to be instinct. It’s just creativity and trying to make different plays.”
But former NHL enforcer-turned-radio host Andrew Peters wasn’t hearing it – he pushed the teen to admit he had to have some master plan.
“I tried to go wide on him but he was staying with me,” McDavid said. “You take one hard step and he commits. Honestly, I was just trying to put it past his stick.”
It was awe-inspiring nonetheless. McDavid is incredibly dangerous whenever he’s on the ice, which is why Knoblauch has him playing on the penalty kill this season in the first place. Even more impressively, the youngster played on a line with rookie Alex DeBrincat and undrafted winger Nick Betz – Dylan Strome, who looked like he could go top five himself in the draft, played on another unit.
The next time McDavid plays on NHL ice will most likely be at the world juniors in Montreal. After playing a supporting role last year for Canada, he is expected to be a much larger contributor. The fact the medal round will be played in Toronto, where he played his minor hockey, means there will be even more attention on the gifted pivot.
Sabres fans are suffering through a brutal start to their team’s season, but there is hope in a high draft selection and McDavid was happy to play along.
“You never know what’s going to happen,” he said. “If I am fortunate enough to play for the Sabres and the city of Buffalo, it would be a tremendous honor.”
In the meantime, Sabres fans can always put these highlights on loop: