Connor McDavid will don an Edmonton Oilers jersey in a professional-type game for the first time ever on Friday night when he suits up at the Young Stars tournament in Penticton, B.C..
When the puck drops McDavid will be facing a group of Canucks prospects that happens to feature several of his former Erie Otters teammates, including former line-mate Dane Fox, Brendan Gaunce and Kyle Pettit. We caught up with McDavid’s former teammates following a pregame skate on Friday, to discuss what they anticipate from the McDavid experience on Friday night.
Of the three, Gaunce is the only one who played against McDavid in his OHL career, and he did so infrequently as he played on the Eastern Conference’s Belleville Bulls. Like everyone else who has ever been asked about McDavid’s effectiveness, he focused on the speed, which he had a chance to see up close this summer.
“When a player is as good as he is it’s kind of hard to have just one game plan to try and stop them,” Gaunce said of facing McDavid. “It has to be a team effort. I skated with him this summer as well and he definitely hasn’t gotten slower.”
To hear Pettit, a defensive ace according to OHL coaches in the Western Conference, tell it – your chances of containing McDavid’s speed are somewhere between fat chance and nil.
“I think the biggest thing for us to try and stop him is to shutdown his speed,” Pettit said on Friday. “You can’t let him get to his top speed and that’s tough. That’s just why he’s such a good player, he’s always at top speed.”
Gaunce’s advice was, seemingly, that the best way to stop McDavid is to lower your expectations.
“It’s kind more about containing him than it is about stopping him fully,” said Vancouver’s 2012 first-round pick.
Fox explained that familiarity with McDavid’s game won’t necessarily help his former Otters teammates on Friday.
“We know a little bit of his game and some of the moves he can make, but he’s a pretty phenomenal player and he’s pretty unpredictable,” Fox said. “You’ve got to play him hard.”
The perspective that Fox can offer is particularly interesting, since he spent much of the 2013-14 season playing alongside McDavid (and Maple Leafs prospect Connor Brown). He benefitted from that experience enormously, potting 64 goals in 67 games and earning an entry-level contract with the Canucks. On Friday he told OilersNation that he’s looking forward to the challenge.
“You know what? I actually am (looking forward) to playing against Connor,” Fox quipped. “Just to see what I’ve been missing out on. Usually I’m on the other side of it.”
When it was suggested to Fox that playing against McDavid isn’t likely to be quite as much fun as playing on his wing, the fringe Canucks prospect who managed 45 points in 70 ECHL games with the Kalamazoo Red Wings last season had no argument.
“Yeah I don’t think so,” he laughed.