Connor McDavid’s first NHL season is over and while the NHL awards voters may opt to give the Calder to Artemi Panarin (who incidentally
doesn’t consider himself a rookie and has been a professional since McDavid was
12), the fact remains that McDavid has lived up to all of the hype that
preceded his entrance into the NHL. He is a genius, a virtuoso on the ice. This
is no more apparent than looking at the effect he had on his linemates.
When they say that great players make the players around
them better, for the most part this is a standard that is incredibly difficult
to live up to. Even the very best in the NHL need to be surrounded with other
good players to perform. “Making someone better” is literally impossible, but
great players might be able to find their teammates in better positions, feed
them better passes, have good chemistry, etc that result in better results.
Making someone better by leaps and bounds is the stuff of legends, not reality.
It’s a good thing for the Oilers, then, that Connor McDavid
is 2/3rd divine, was raised by wolves, and is spending his summer
questing for the Holy Grail.
The effect that McDavid has had on his linemates is unreal.
At this point, I’m pretty sure the Oilers could hold a contest to pick
McDavid’s new winger from the season ticket holder base and that winner would
be able to score 15 goals next year in the NHL taking passes from 97. Here are three
players who weren’t already considered premier talent that spent time with
McDavid and their 5v5 production with and without him this season.
Without McDavid: 504.25 minutes, 0.83 P/60, 0.59 G/60
With McDavid: 205.25 minutes, 2.63 P/60, 0.58 G/60
The former 1st overall pick of the 2012 draft has
not had great success with the Oilers. His time here is almost certainly over,
barring the trade market completely collapsing on Chiarelli. Yakupov’s agent
made it clear that he believed the winger needed an offensively minded center
who can play the game at high speed to get the most out him. McDavid and Yak
made beautiful music together to start the season, but injury separated them
and they never did get reunited. Without McDavid, Yakupov was forced to play
with Letestu for the most part and he didn’t have the standalone ability to
Without McDavid, Yakupov was the draft bust he will likely
be remembered as when he leaves town. He couldn’t produce offensively at all.
He disappointed completely. With McDavid he produced at a rate that mirrors
some of the best players in the NHL. It was like a light switch being turned on
and off. Points. No Points. Points. No Points. *light switch rave* The
difference in production could not be more stark.
Without McDavid: 415.25 minutes, 1.30 P/60, 0.58 G/60
With McDavid: 285.75 minutes, 2.94 P/60, 0.63 G/60
Pouliot has always been a good 5v5 players. That’s his
calling card. He’s an aggressive forechecker with an active stick. That stick
is both the reason he keeps possession so well and the reason he takes
infractions in the offensive zone. He found great success with Connor McDavid
this season playing on the left side. A shoulder injury ended his season, but
before that point he looked like a perfect fit with the rookie sensation. Now
as others have emerged his place beside McDavid is definitely in doubt.
Without McDavid this season his scoring had dipped below his
previously established levels quite a bit, but with him they ballooned. In the
four years prior to this season, Pouliot averaged 1.97 points per 60 minutes.
That’s very impressive offense for any player, let alone one who has bounced
around the league. So 1.30 without Connor is lower than expected, but 2.94 with
him is other worldly.
Without McDavid: 633.75 minutes, 1.04 P/60, 0.28 G/60
With McDavid: 134 minutes, 3.13 P/60, 1.79 G/60
Patrick Maroon played the least with McDavid but had the
greatest turn around. That is scary for very obvious reasons. What if this was
just a short-lived hot streak and then he returns back to 3rd line
player? He’s played with talent in the past. He spend a fair amount of time with Getzlaf and Perry while a member of the Ducks, but even with Perry he averaged just a little over 2.00 P/60. When the Oilers got Maroon it was practically a favor to the Ducks because he had slumped so badly.
They even agreed to pay 25% of his salary just to facilitate the deal. That’s
how highly considered he was by Ducks management.
Then Maroon got a chance early on here to play with Connor
McDavid and Edmonton found themselves a very different player. His Points and
Goals per 60 minutes are so high that you HAVE to call them unsustainable.
Well, you have to unless you think Maroon is a significantly better goal
producer than Alex Ovechkin who averaged the NHL’s highest 1.37 G/60 over the
course of the season. The chemistry between Maroon and McDavid seemed very
natural despite any reasonable concerns about sustainability. Maroon goes to
the net and has soft hands. That might be enough with McDavid feeding passes.
The genius of Connor McDavid is so multifaceted. He has
blazing speed, hands, vision, and a stick that acts like a puck magnet. However,
the effect he has had on the players around him, specifically in the ones who
aren’t NHL stars in their own right, is incredible. This 19 year old brings the
absolute most out of his linemates. He finds them with plays no one else can
see. He makes their skills stand out in the best possible light on a consistent
I’ve held off on talking about Eberle because I have
something else in mind with him and he was a very good NHL player before
playing with Connor McDavid. The truth is that McDavid works with everyone. He’s
the free square on the Bingo card. When we talk about great players making the
people around them better, the results speak for themselves. Connor McDavid
elevated the scoring for every player he spent time with.
How much of a bump to scoring McDavid can be expected to
provide to his linemates long term is something we won’t know until he plays a
lot more than 45 NHL games, but this past season there can be no debate. The
kid was magic, transforming an array of middle-tier talent into elite scorers.