It’s an understatement to say Connor McDavid is generating the kind of expectations and anticipation we haven’t experienced since Sidney Crosby entered the NHL in 2005, and that hullabaloo isn’t limited to fans of the Edmonton Oilers.
Buzz about McDavid torqued up to levels approaching giddy after he waltzed around Rexall Place like he owned the joint July 6, scoring five goals in a scrimmage that was played 4-on-4 and 3-on-3 as fans got their initial look at the first overall pick from the 2015 draft.
That came on the heels of an article by Sportsnet – one I missed at the time it was published – in late June predicting McDavid will score at a .94 PPG rate and finish among the top-10 in NHL scoring as a rookie with 77 points if he plays all 82 games. That item can be found in its entirety here.
Only Crosby, with a predicted output of 1.14 PPG in 2005 (he actually scored at a 1.26 rate with 102 points in 81 games), and Patrick Kane, pegged at .94 in 2007 (Kane produced at .88 with 72 points in 82 games) have been tagged as being this prolific in the last decade.
Is McDavid capable of .94 PPG and 77 points? Sure. Do I expect it? No.
A LOT TO ASK
Predicting how past performance in the CHL or European leagues might translate to the NHL is tricky at best and it’s often hit-and-miss, even with the best available models. Simply put, how a player like McDavid might perform depends on several factors — ice time, how he’s used at 5-on-5 and on the power play, most common linemates, the overall quality of the team he plays with and the quality of opponents he gets matched up against.
Just looking at Oiler rookies in the table provided by Sportsnet, Sam Gagner was pegged at .61 PPG and produced at .62 in 2007. In 2010, the prediction on Taylor Hall was .55 PPG and he came in at .50. In 2011, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was picked at .57 PPG and blew that out of the water with .85. In 2012, Nail Yakupov’s expected rate was .50 PPG and he ended up at .65 with a hot finish.
Historically, that .94 PPG is lofty stuff. While we know McDavid will be sheltered, at least to start the season, with Nugent-Hopkins as the top centre, we don’t know who he will play with. Will coach Todd McLellan play Hall with RNH and Jordan Eberle or might he make Benoit Pouliot his top left winger and put Hall alongside McDavid? We don’t know how much ice time McDavid will get – 17 minutes a night, 18 minutes? How much power-play time?
What we do know is the Oilers have been anything but an offensive juggernaut the past three seasons – they’ve been bottom-five in goal scoring in each of those seasons. In those three seasons the power play was No. 19 in percentage in 2014-15, No. 21 in 2013-14 and eighth in 2012-13.
I can see McDavid scoring close to that predicted .94 PPG clip, but I think that’s the absolute top end, given the variables I’ve mentioned. I’d be more inclined to go with a slightly more conservative .89 PPG. As for number of games McDavid plays, I don’t know, but if he gets into, say, 78 games, that translates to 69 points. What are your numbers?
WHILE I’M AT IT
- We had another question about who should be the next captain of the Oilers in Monday’s mailbag. While I said I’d prefer that Andrew Ference sit down with McLellan, get his thoughts and then step forward to relinquish the “C,” I don’t believe it’s so imperative the captaincy be passed on now that Ference should be stripped of it. Leaders will lead with or without a letter and I’d have no problem if McLellan took a season to decide who his captain should be.
- Best competition going into training camp will be on the blue line, and it’s been awhile since we’ve been able to say that. If you assume Andrej Sekera, Mark Fayne, Oscar Klefbom and Justin Schultz are in, that leaves Ference, Eric Gryba, Nikita Nikitin, Griffin Reinhart and Darnell Nurse battling for the final pairing and the seventh spot. My depth chart has Ference, Gryba and Nurse in 5-6-7 going into camp.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.