Over at the Players Tribune, Mark Scheifele talked about the five toughest players he’s had to play against in his career, and, as you’d expect, Connor McDavid was on the list. Let’s break it down.
One thing that I love about hockey players is their willingness to pump a guy’s tires when they deem it appropriate, and when it comes to Connor McDavid it’s always a good time for praise. McFanboying aside, I think it’s cool to know that these guys are huge fans of the game just like the rest of us and it’s interesting to hear them talk about what it’s like to face them on the ice.
Go on, Mark. Tell us about Connor — we’re all listening.
The fastest guy in the league. The best hands in the league. Amazing hockey sense. And he’s 20 years old. It’s pretty scary.
Slow down there, big shooter. I’m going to need a minute to dim the lights and grab some candles so that I can soak this in properly. Mmmmm, Connor’s speed… hockey sense… ohhhhhhhhh… Wait, is this thing on? *adjusts collar*
I remember the first time I saw Connor skate in person, I was like, O.K., this guy was just born different. He’s genetically superior. He was created in a hockey lab. I mean, he’s taking the same amount of strides as everybody else… he’s wearing the same skates as everybody else… and somehow he’s going twice as fast?
This is hilarious because it’s the exact same thought that we’ve all had when we watch him. How the hell is he moving so fast? Where is the turbo button we’re not seeing? Where is he hiding it? I know it’s there!
There’s not a single NHL team that has figured out how to handle his speed on the rush.
Amen, Mark. The speed he can generate through the neutral zone is almost enough to cause liftoff. It’s beautiful, isn’t it? What else do you
love respect about him?
Technically, Connor’s got the ability to turn on a dime and then be back to full speed in a single stride. Which makes him pretty unique — it usually takes a normal player two or three strides. And even within the phrase full speed, Connor’s different. Because there’s really two different types of speed: skating speed, and then hockey speed.
We must also remember 1994’s Speed, starring Keanu Reeves. It’s a hell of a movie and could be some of the best use of speed until Connor rolled around. Not to mention, it’s some of Keanu’s finest work, in my opinion. Anyway, that’s another conversation. Go on…
What I mean is, if you can skate really fast, that’s great, but there are a lot of things defenses can do to stop that. But if you skate fast and you think the game fast, then you’re almost impossible to defend. That’s hockey speed. And Connor’s hockey brain is next-level, just like Sid’s brain.
I was wondering when Scheifele was going to compare those two guys and BAM there it was. It’s funny, though, because Connor and Sid have very different styles but are both so dominant that they can really only be compared to each other. How do they compare? Scheifele offers an inside perspective.
I got a chance to play with Connor on Team North America at the World Cup of Hockey, and then I skated with him this summer, and he would do things on a daily basis that would make my jaw drop. Genetically, he was definitely born to play hockey, but the guy also works his butt off.
I’ll buy that. I mean, a court order prevents me from getting within 100 yards of swabbing his mouth and sending it off to 23 and Me but I assume the results would prove what we’ve known all along. “THIS MAN IS NOT MORTAL. HE IS SOME KIND OF SHANG TSUNG SHAPESHIFTING HOCKEY GOD” is probably what that would say, but I’m really just guessing.
It sounds like a cliché, but the best players in the world work as hard as they can at being the best. Even when they’re at the top, they love what they’re doing and they love to learn. With the way that Connor works, I can see him having a similar progression to Sid, where he adds new aspects to his game every summer.
The best part about this whole thing is that Connor still has a few summers left until he gets into his prime. How scary is that going to be? I imagine a 24-year-old Connor McDavid shooting lasers from his eyes with a boombox on his shoulder while he’s dangling through every player in the NHL. I’m so excited to see how good he can get because I truly believe that he’s not playing the same game as the rest of the league. He’s Neo in the Matrix and he’s just now starting to see the world in code.
But what’s so cool about hockey is that if you watch Sid play, and then you watch Connor, it’s like studying a totally different animal. Sid’s game is about leverage and vision and working down low with his back to the play. Connor’s game is about explosiveness and acceleration and getting you on your heels. The two best players in the world really don’t play anything alike. The common denominator is that they’re both animals.
CAN I GUESS WHAT KIND OF ANIMAL? I bet it’s a Tiger… No wait… He’s a Jaguar! Jaguars are bad ass. Not only are they cool as hell they also drag the carcasses of their kills up into trees so that they can eat in peace. That’s kinda like what happens when defencemen try to hook and latch onto McDavid to get a free ride or a taste of what it’s like to be as fast as he is. Gord knows they can’t stop him so hitching a ride is the only thing that really makes sense.
Make sure to head over to The Players Tribune to check out what Scheifele said about the other four guys on his list. Like I said, it’s an interesting dive into the mind of one of the NHL’s best young players and reading his appreciation for the elite level talent around the league is worth wasting a few minutes of company time. As for McDavid, I’ll never get tired of reading quotes from other players gushing about him. It’s nice to know that they appreciate him almost as much as we do.*
*it’s not really close