The phenom is coming off a strong but incomplete rookie year. We talk to the Oilers center about Edmonton`s new acquisitions, the upcoming World Cup and his summer travels.
In a way, Connor McDavid delivered exactly as we thought he would as an NHL rookie: his sublime skill set and hockey mind propelled him to more than a point per game, making him one of Edmonton’s top scorers. But a shoulder injury deprived him of nearly half the season and perhaps the Calder Trophy. So we’ve seen McDavid, but we also know there is more to come. Entering his sophomore campaign, the Oilers phenom is feeling positive about his team’s chances.
Edmonton made some pretty big changes over the summer, trading top winger Taylor Hall to New Jersey for defenseman Adam Larsson, but also adding power forward Milan Lucic via free agency. McDavid is ready to see how the chemistry will work.
“We’re so much bigger, so much stronger,” he said. “Of course losing Taylor is a big loss, but we added one of the toughest guys in the league, if not the toughest guy in the league (in Lucic). Then you add a defenseman in Larsson who is pretty underrated. You only know how good he is when you play against him. I’ve played against him a few times and it’s not very fun, so I’m definitely glad to have him on my team.”
As Edmonton tries to snap a playoff futility streak now in double-digit years, leadership will be crucial. Though McDavid is still a teenager, his name has been brought up for the vacant captaincy. It makes sense, given his lineage – franchise changers such as Sidney Crosby, John Tavares and Alex Ovechkin are all captains – but McDavid doesn’t want to assume he has the ‘C’ earned. Instead, he’ll let us reporters do the guess work while he stays on message. Not that he wouldn’t be psyched.
“It’s the biggest honor,” he said. “Definitely an accomplishment that I would be the most proud of.”
Though Edmonton will need McDavid at his best this season, another squad will be counting on him first – Team North America, the 23-and-unders that will battle for the World Cup of Hockey in September.
“It’s going to be about keeping the puck out of our net,” McDavid said. “We have a lot of skill up front, some unbelievable defensemen and a couple good goalies who will compete for the starting job, but we’re playing against much older guys that are very experienced. It will be interesting to see how it goes.”
World Cup training camps begin soon, but in the meanwhile, McDavid is skating in Toronto at the annual BioSteel camp with scores of other NHLers. And while it’s a little bittersweet to see McDavid whirling around a cross-ice scrimmage game with Hall back on his wing, he’s also getting a sneak peak at what Tyler Seguin will bring to the World Cup competition, since Seguin is part of Team Canada.
BioSteel, known best for their nutrition drinks, also took McDavid on a pretty decent trip earlier in the summer, as he headed to China with the company.
“That was an unbelievable experience,” he said. “It was cool to see China and the different ways that people live. We got to experience the Great Wall and the Forbidden City, it was very cool to see.”
So the kid has gone global. But with Edmonton in need of a playoff berth, McDavid needs to think locally. Luckily, there’s no reason to question his drive or focus. At the tender age of 19, McDavid has already proven that he can handle the hype. And we haven’t even been blessed with a full 82 games from the Oilers center yet.