Connor McDavid is special in a way that’s difficult to
fathom, especially for Oiler fans who have had three other first overall
picks in recent years. We have been treated to some very bright young players. We know
what kind of struggles they still have but also what kind of ups to expect as
well. Maybe it’s because we’re embarrassed by our riches, but I’ve found in many ways Oiler fans are a bit shy with regards to discussing the
talents of Connor McDavid.
Oh sure, we know McDavid is good, but it’s almost as if
people are afraid to say how good he really is. Well the following people have
no qualms about saying good things about Connor McDavid. And, over the course
of the coming year I think we’ll find more and more quotes praising this young man.
Here are just a few of hockey’s elite saying what they think
about Edmonton’s newest star.
This is one of the most recent quotes, it comes from Eric Lindros. You might remember Eric Lindros as that guy who dominated the NHL in
the mid 90’s. He too knows what it’s like to be considered one of the best
junior players of his era. Nobody was more physically dominant as a teenager
than Eric Lindros. Frankly, it wasn’t even close.
He’s everything. Speed. His speed and his hands. Some guys
might have two or three gears. He’s got five or six. He can change his pace,
especially when he decides to go wide or he sees an opening in the middle. He’s
Ron MacLean is quoted in the same piece as Lindros and had his own thoughts on McDavid. MacLean has covered the game
for decades from up close. He considers the kinds of players teams want today
versus the past.
He’s as dominant in a game that’s now a speed game as Eric (Lindros)
was a power forward in a power forward’s game. Everyone wanted Eric, (Keith)
Tkachuk, (Jeremy) Roenick, (Brendan) Shanahan. They wanted that player.
Eric was the best of the kind of player you wanted back in
1991. Nobody knew Wayne would be Wayne—nobody. They thought he’d get beat up in
the NHL, and he proved to be something. And Crosby’s unique. McDavid is the
best I’ve ever seen of the kind of player he is.
That’s high praise. The best speed/skill player he’s ever
David Branch has been the Commissioner of the OHL since 1979
and the President of the CHL since 1996. He is also a member of the Hockey Hall
of Fame selection committee. There is maybe nobody more qualified to speak
about Ontario Hockey League players past and present than him. He speaks to the
qualities that differentiate McDavid from his peers.
With the speed of the game and the size of the players, the
way he can skate, the way he can make plays, the way he can stick-handle in
tight spaces, there is just such a separation between him and the other players
John Tavares was the first ever player granted Exceptional
Status to play in the OHL when he was just 15. McDavid would be only the third
ever player to receive that honour. Tavares is a star in the NHL (some might argue
superstar but not me) but when he talks about McDavid he’s not just speaking to
what he’s seen in highlight reels. He’s spent time on the ice with young Connor.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone accelerate the way he can.
You think he’s in top gear and suddenly, he puts it into a higher one. I’ve
skated with him a couple of times and I’ve seen it first hand.
And about handling the expectations that come with so much
hype and first overall status, Tavares delivers the message that we
should already know. He’s been dealing with these expectations for a long time already.
When you’re that good, you’re that good because you can
handle those kinds of expectations and that kind of pressure to be what able to
do what you can do as consistently as he does.
What does Sidney Crosby think of Connor McDavid? He keeps it short and sweet.
He reminds me of me.
He should remind Crosby of himself. The two dominated their
leagues to unprecedented levels, both bear the weight of being named
generational players, and are both relentless workers while at the same time
always appearing humble in the spotlight.
But to others, McDavid reminds them of not just one person
but an amalgamation of multiple people. Sherry Bassin (owner of the Erie
Otters) relays the story of who Dale Hawerchuk said McDavid reminds the Winnipeg Jets legend of yesteryear.
Dale Hawerchuk (coach in Barrie) said Connor skates like
Bobby Orr and sees the ice like Wayne Gretzky. Not bad company. Dale Hawerchuk
had 102 points in the NHL as a rookie, so he knows the game a little bit.
I’ve seen multiple versions of Bassin re-telling this
comparison. In others he adds that Hawerchuk said along with Orr’s skating and
Wayne’s vision, McDavid has Mario’s hands. Ahem.
How does Mark Messier, the NHL’s second all-time leading scorer,
describe the kid?
One word is both not nearly enough and just right at the
But no collection of quotes about the NHL’s best championing
Connor McDavid can be complete without the Great One. He has been one of the
most verbal sources, no doubt due to his connection to the city of Edmonton and
the Oilers franchise. Here he discusses where McDavid fits in the history of prospects coming out of Junior as well as how Edmonton will treat this young
He’s as good as I’ve seen in the last 30 years, the best
player to come into the league in the last 30 years, the best to come along
since Lemieux and Crosby. He can definitely change a franchise’s fortunes.
I think it’ll be a perfect fit for Connor in Edmonton. Not
one bit is Edmonton a suffocating place to play. He’ll be treated like an
Edmontonian. People will give him his privacy while they’re enamoured by his
ability. I know the Oilers have gone through a lot the last few years (nine
straight years out of the playoffs), but they’ll be patient with him. I know
it’s a big step going from junior hockey to the NHL, but the Edmonton fans have
been through that with Messier and Coffey and Fuhr and myself.
And here Gretzky discusses the jump from the OHL to the NHL
and the difficulties that face him. Gretzky, of course, had played
professionally before entering the NHL.
Going right from junior to the NHL? That’s a big step for
Connor. But he’s the one guy who can handle it. He’ll be fine. With his speed
and his shot and his creativity and his hockey knowledge, that’s as good as
What’s going to surprise NHL people about Connor is he has
an extra gear. When you think you’ve got him, he’ll pull away. That’s his
As good as anybody… at 18. Chills.
The people beating the McDavid drum the loudest aren’t Oiler
fans pinning their hopes and dreams on an 18 year old kid. It isn’t the
bloggers who write about the team they cheer for and have an interest in the kid turning into a superstar. The people who are telling us
most frequently, most forcefully that Connor McDavid is going to be a franchise
altering player, are our most respected hockey figures.
And who am I to tell Wayne Gretzky, Messier, Hawerchuk,
Lindros, and the backlog of greats and former greats that they should cool it
with the McDavid talk?
He’s a special player. It’s not wrong to say that out loud. Keep enjoying your summer, Edmonton, but I can’t wait for it to be over.