McDavid’s Magic Set to Reach New Levels
Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
By Jason Gregor11 months ago
For the first time in his career, Connor McDavid opened the season with a four-point game. He had three-point games on opening night in October of 2016 and 2017, both times v. the Calgary Flames, including a hat-trick on October 4th, 2017, but last night he set a new standard, scoring three goals and adding an assist.
When we last saw McDavid play, he was torching the Los Angeles Kings, Calgary Flames and Colorado Avalanche with 33 points in 16 playoff games. His 2.06 points/game in a single playoff year was the fifth best in NHL history behind Wayne Gretzky (2.61, 2.36 and 2.26) and Mario Lemieux (2.27) among players who played at least 10 games. His greatness reached a new playoff level last spring, and no one should be surprised if he takes his regular season scoring prowess to new heights this season.
In the 56-game shortened 2021 season McDavid scored 105 points in 56 games. That prorates to 154 points in an 82-game season. Some believed less travel combined with playing the same six teams led to his higher point totals, but the Canadian Division actually had the second lowest GA/game that year. Travel was a benefit, no doubt, but all the other players had the same travel and outside of Leon Draisaitl’s 84 points, the next closest was Brad Marchand — a mere 36 points behind McDavid.
Some looked for reasons to downplay McDavid’s greatness, rather than wonder if he can he do it again. When skeptics look at Wayne Gretzky’s records, they often say “It was the 1980s, everyone scored,” and after 20 seconds of research you realize why that statement is grossly incorrect. Yes, there were more goals, but no player was close to Gretzky. In seven seasons between 1981-1987 Gretzky scored 1,383 points in 553 games. Mike Bossy was second with 817 followed by Peter Stastny (790), Marcel Dionne (755) and Jari Kurri (752).
Gretzky averaged 2.50 points/game, while Bossy was at 1.56, Stastny 1.50, Kurri 1.45, and Dionne 1.39. Gretzky averaged one point/game more than every player except Bossy, and he was 0.94 ahead of him. Yes, the 1980s had more offence, but Gretzky was in a league of his own.
And since entering the NHL in 2015/2016, McDavid has shown he’s on a different level than all his competitors.
His four-point game last night pushed him to 701 points in 488 games. He’s averaging 1.44 points/game. The closest to him in points/game is Nikita Kucherov at 1.24, followed by Patrick Kane and Draisaitl at 1.17. Kane has 624 points in 532 games, while Draisaitl scored 610 in 522 games. They are the only two within 100 points of McDavid.
McDavid’s run to 700 points was the sixth fastest in NHL history.
McDavid is still improving. In his three previous seasons, 2020-2022, McDavid scored 325 points in 200 games. He averaged 1.63 points/game. He still hasn’t reached his peak level of performance and starting the season with a hat trick and four points is likely foreshadowing what is to come. Last week in our Daily Faceoff season prognostications I predicted he’d score 131 points and become the first player since 1996 to surpass 130 points. A remarkable feat, but I probably underestimated him.
He raised his game to a new level in the playoffs, and we shouldn’t be surprised to see him continue that this season. We’ve witnessed him look for new ways to produce points. He’s become more of a shooter each season. In 2017 he fired 251 shots on goal in 82 games. Last year he was up to 314 in 80 games. He has said on numerous occasions he wasn’t natural shooter growing up.
“Obviously, I’m always trying to grow my game and better my game,” said McDavid. “Scoring (goals) in this league is the hardest thing to do. I truly believe that. Scoring is not easy. Some guys have a knack for it, and some guys don’t. I have to kind of work for mine.” He will rarely overpower a goalie with a one-timer like Alex Ovechkin, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t an effective scorer. He has the fourth most goals in the NHL over the past five years. He knows how to score, even if he has to work for it.
He got off to a great start with three goals and five shots last night. He set a new high with 44 goals last season, but he had the second lowest SH% of his career and the lowest 5×5 SH% of his career. He scored on 10.6% of his shots at 5×5. The previous six seasons he averaged just over 14%. Just based on math alone if McDavid gets back to his career average of 14% at 5×5 and takes 207 shots like he did last year then he’ll score 30 goals at 5×5 compared to 22 last year. And that doesn’t include goals at 4×4, 3×3 and on the power play. The odds suggest that a 50-goal season is very realistic for him, especially after an opening-night Hattie.
The exciting part for Oilers fans, and the scary factor for opposing fans, is that McDavid scored four points last night and he was quiet for the first half of the game. The Oilers had a sluggish, sloppy start. They missed passes, missed assignments and turned the puck over far too often. McDavid set a career-high with five giveaways at 5×5. In his previous 487, he’d only had two games with four giveaways at 5×5 — one in March of 2019 and once in February of 2020.
Even on a night he, and the team, weren’t very sharp, he still scored three goals and added an assist. His talent is amazing, and it should not be taken for granted. On any given night he will do something that grabs the hockey world’s attention. Other nights he will score four points without being flashy or his usually dominant self. That defines his greatness, and game one was just a reminder that no one should be surprised if McDavid sets a career-high in goals and points this season.
I wouldn’t bet against him.
Oct 12, 2022; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) battles for a loose puck with Vancouver Canucks defensemen Tucker Poolman (5) during the third period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
— McDavid is the 252nd player in NHL history to record 700 points. He moved past former Oiler Geoff Sanderson into 251st spot when he picked up his 701st point on his empty net goal. Currently 177 players have 800+ points, but McDavid and few other active players will reach that mark this season. In only his eighth year he is going to be in the top-200 point getters of all time.
His 1.44 points/game average is fourth highest among players with 700+ points, trailing Bossy (1.50), Lemieux (1.88) and Gretzky (1.92). He seems poised to at least become the 15th player to have 1,500+ career points, and more likely will push to finish top-five, and maybe even second place ahead of Jaromir Jagr’s 1,921 points. McDavid is only 25 years old, and with the improved education on training, nutrition and equipment, combined with his natural ability, there is plenty of reason to believe that in the next decade McDavid will cement himself amongst the greatest of the greats. Enjoy the ride.
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