When the hype machine is revved up to redline as it has been for Connor McDavid, it’s not very often a player, even one as obviously special and gifted as him, can live up to it.
Of course, we won’t know for years whether McDavid will deliver on the hoopla we heard before the Edmonton Oilers selected him first overall or the gushing praise reverberating from Rexall Place Monday after he scored five goals for fun in a scrimmage, but he damn sure has made an impression.
Maybe I’m getting soft and sentimental in my old age, but the moment that stuck with me didn’t come during his waltz-around – I’m not sure McDavid even kicked it into overdrive even once — on the ice during the scrimmage, it came after his dazzling display of dangle.
McDavid signed a hat, then motioned to a young fan behind the glass, his intended target, before tossing it over. When a loutish older fan who should know better reached in to snatch the lid, McDavid torched her with a world-class stink eye Mark Messier would be proud of and pointed at the child again. Message and hat delivered. That clip and full highlights are here.
SETTING THE BAR HIGH
I’m not going to read too much into that gesture, but I think it’s worth noting. McDavid, 18, has handled every situation and every interview he’s faced during a ridiculously busy two weeks since the draft with maturity and grace. This was more of that. He’s an impressive young man.
McDavid was, of course, spectacular in an 8-6 win for Team White on the ice in front of 7,000 or so fans during a scrimmage that was played four-on-four and three-on-three, which is right in his wheelhouse, given what a dynamic skater he is.
“There was a lot of open ice. A lot of chances,” understated McDavid. “It was my first NHL camp and I really enjoyed it. We covered a lot of different areas — nutrition, fitness, obviously the on-ice parts. You just try and soak it all in. It’s the attention to detail. Every little thing matters.”
With orientation camp over, McDavid will rest and re-load and get ready for the next step.
“Of course it was fun,” he said. “It’s always fun to play in front of those kind of fans. The whole week was awesome. It was so exciting to be part of this week and see Edmonton and the fans. I think it’s been great. I think I have a better understanding of how excited they are with the Oilers in general.
“And they should be excited. There have been a lot of great changes. They’ve made a couple of trades and signed a couple of free agents. I think there are a lot of reasons to be excited about this franchise here.”
Count the young fan who got the hat among them.
THE WAY I SEE IT
- I don’t mind the over-the-top enthusiasm about McDavid one bit and don’t see any need to throw a wet blanket on it. Yes, what we saw Monday was only a scrimmage. No, McDavid isn’t going to score five goals a game against real NHL opposition. And what about another D-man? Understood by most people with a functioning brain. Enjoy the ride. It’ll get real soon enough.
- Somebody asked me the other day in the Monday Mailbag who my dark horse to make the team was. I said I didn’t have one. After last night, I might give Greg Chase some consideration as a longshot who might impress. Make the team? I don’t think so. Take a run? Could be.
- I want to see more of the same from Darnell Nurse and Leon Draisaitl during main camp. They’ve been very impressive, as you’d expect, so far, with some people already writing Nurse into the line-up. Nurse, especially, seems intent on forcing the issue.
- Can’t wait to see what lines coach Todd McLellan foresees going into main camp. I don’t know if Taylor Hall is a fit for McDavid on left wing because both like to carry the puck, but mercy that’s a lot of speed to throw at opposing D-men.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.