The first time I heard the name Connor McDavid, it came in a sentence including the word “exceptional” and nothing has changed since that day.
MARCH 21, 2012
- Dustin Pollack, National Post: Connor McDavid is now part of a very small, yet elite group.The Ontario Hockey Federation announced this morning that the
15-year-old will be granted exceptional player status, making him
eligible for the Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection next month, a
year earlier than other players born in 1997.
He is only the third player in OHL history to be granted exceptional
status behind Barrie Colts defenceman Aaron Ekblad, who is a rookie with
the Barrie Colts, and New York Islanders forward John Tavares, who was
drafted by the Oshawa Generals in 2005. Source
When I read about an exceptional talent who is years from the draft, it’s kind of a distant bell, a curio, and it’s information you pack away for another day. McDavid was a 15-year-old kid, lots of development to go and other things to worry over.
During the period when his status was in limbo, McDavid was interviewed by several publications and gave the first indication about what kind of player he was, how he viewed the game.
- Connor McDavid describing himself as a player, 2012: “I believe that I am a good playmaker, looking to pass before shooting. I
am a good skater who is able to do things at high speed. I feel my
biggest strength is my hockey IQ. For me the game slows down a bit and
allows me to see different things on the ice. I need to work on
becoming more of a shooter. Often times give up the shot for the pass
and at the next level I need to change that.”
Interesting. This interview is from March of 2012 and shows a very self aware young man (most youngsters are very articulate even at 15, compared to 30 years ago).
- Connor McDavid on the player he would like to become, 2012: “If there is any player in the NHL that I would like to become, it’s
Pavel Datysuk. He has amazing offensive skills but is also someone that
the coach can put on in the last 30 seconds in a one goal game because
he is also very defensive minded. He is the complete 2-way player.”
Music! McDavid’s offensive skills are insane, but the finer points of the game are more difficult to master and of course making McDavid into a checker would be worthy of the firing squad for a junior coach. Still, his willingness at a young age to recognize the importance of a complete game is encouraging.
Note: My sincere thanks to Brock Otten of OHL Prospects for his generosity in sharing his material. The McDavid interview on his blog is here.
BORN TO PLAY HOCKEY
We’re in March of 2012 now, McDavid is 15 years and two months old during this period. Once the exceptional status is granted, the process that gets him drafted kicks in and that’s often a very sticky wicket. Many kids (and their handlers) try to tweak their situation by having specific teams back off from drafting them, or trading the pick to a bigger, more successful market. There’s no judgement to pass here, it’s part of the game and we all live with it. However, it is interesting to see how McDavid’s family dynamic impacts how he makes his decisions.
It’s that aspect of a young prospect’s life—the vital support system—that gets easily overlooked but remains a major part of the player’s progress.
- Brian McDavid (Connor’s Dad): “We go to the rinks and we see the things he’s
able to do on the ice, but he’s our son. We don’t see him
the way other people see him. We see him as a 15-year-old kid you’ve
got to remind to clean up his room.” Source (Michael Woods, Toronto Star)
- Kelly McDavid (Connor’s Mom): “He’s very mature. To
him, it’s just an attitude that this is ‘one more thing I’ve got to do
to reach my goal. It’s no big deal. I’ll go, live there, it’s going to
go fast and we’ll all be fine.’ He was kind of reassuring my husband and
I all the time. He was more worried about us when he went. But it was
definitely difficult to let him go, but because he is so grounded, it
made it a lot easier.” Source (Kevin McGran, Toronto Star)
If we’re looking for a reason behind McDavid’s greatness, beyond the physical skills and the big brain, it’s very important to remember the environment he grew up in. The back story on Connor McDavid reads in a way that reminds us of past greats in the game: Family, support, sacrifice and being there.
Up next: Connor McDavid is a special talent. Will he use his status to tailor his OHL destination?