Connor McDavid has all the tools. He has the brains to think
the game at the highest level. He has the hands to make plays with the puck
that even the world’s elite marvel at. He has wheels reminiscent of a young
Pavel Bure. And he has the vision to find his teammates and see plays that are
difficult to spot from a bird’s eye view of the ice. However, what ties it all
together to make him the most dangerous player on the ice is his
aggressiveness. It’s not enough that he just has these gifts. His genius is in
the way he challenges the opposing skaters to keep up to him.
You need only to have watched the last game to be reminded
of the fact that Connor McDavid against five skaters is already hilariously unfair
for the opposition. His goal – the goal – was a blend of unnatural speed,
hands, vision, and aggressiveness that makes McDavid dangerously unpredictable
in the best possible sense of the phrase.
Perhaps what makes McDavid so dangerous is his
aggressiveness, not with his physical play like Kassian or Hendricks, but the
aggressiveness with which he attacks the defense. Because his skill level is so
incredibly high and his feet never out-pace his hands or his mind, McDavid can
challenge NHL defensemen in ways maybe only two or three other people in the
We know that McDavid can make those critical plays with no
time and space while he’s at top speed. He knows he can make those plays. He
also knows most people cannot. So when he attacks the Blue Jackets’ defense by
moving to the inside, what he’s really doing is throwing down the challenge to
Justin Falk and Jack Johnson. He has all the confidence in the world and knows
that there is better than a 50/50 chance that if he forces the defense to make
a play they will come up short against him.
In this case, McDavid starts his assault with that wicked
speed starting in his own zone. Eberle gets the puck up and over to Pouliot but
he’s a little flat-footed. McDavid is behind the pass by a split-second but in
the blink of an eye he’s got the puck and is heading towards the space between
Johnson and Falk. Johnson attempts to stick his hip out but McDavid is so fast
he walks around him before contact is made. Meanwhile, he’s regained control of
the puck and pulled it back towards him which apparently melts Falk’s brain and
leaves him sliding on the ice neatly out of the play. Now he’s all alone with
That’s when he’s playing 5v5 hockey.
So when the opposition is down a man that aggressiveness
just ramps up. We’ve seen him draw defenders towards him. We’ve seen him use
that incredible speed to break through the blue line. We’ve seen him
relentlessly hound the puck as he did last night as well.
The rookie centre gets the puck and again makes a move that
challenges his target to make play even better than the one he is about to
make. In this case he attempts to take the puck around the goaltender and he’s
up to the task. But the rest of the defense is frozen in place, static, while
McDavid continues his dynamic and relentless attack. McDavid hasn’t given up on
the play even after his initial move is thwarted. He gets the puck back and
keeps the play moving around a Blue Jackets team that is watching a trainwreck
happen in slow-motion.
While the goalie is out of the play, having made one quality
athletic stop already, the defense can only pray the ref will blow the whistle.
He doesn’t. Instead, McDavid gets the puck back while he’s getting up from a
prone position and keeps the play moving towards Eberle and away from the
McDavid is a scoring chance machine. That applies to all
game states. In his 14 games we’ve witnessed his ability to make the power play
deadly as well as his ability to find space at even-strength. He’s so gifted in
so many aspects of play but it’s the willingness he has to throw down the
gauntlet to seasoned NHL veterans, just 14 games into his own career, that
makes Connor McDavid the electrifying and terrifying player he is today.