|Meet Hockey's Next One: Connor McDavid|
|Written by Dan Marrazza|
|Friday, 19 October 2012 14:21|
Hockey fans tend to get a bit hyperbolic when it comes to naming the sport's "next one," but they may have found a pretty good candidate in Erie Otters center, Connor McDavid.Unlike any other sport, hockey has a way of anointing its “next ones” at precociously young ages.
The tales of hockey’s “next ones” are as legendary as the stories of a pre-teen version of Wayne Gretzky earning the chance to meet Gordie Howe, and extend to the likes of Mario Lemieux, Eric Lindros and Sidney Crosby being declared future first-overall NHL draft picks years before their eligibility.
While there’s always cases like Alexandre Daigle that prove that not every kid appointed as hockey’s “next one” will automatically go on to fulfill his promise, there is always a sense of excitement when one of these kids come along.
Enter Connor McDavid, who has his mass introduction to the hockey world on Friday night when his Erie Otters host the London Knights on the NHL Network and Rogers Sportsnet at 7:00 p.m.
McDavid, scorer of 72 points (33g, 39a) in 33 midget games with the Toronto Marlboros last season, is the first forward since John Tavares to be granted “exceptional player status” in junior hockey, meaning he’s been given special permission to play in the Ontario Hockey League despite being just 15-years-old.
“His vision and his skating are unbelievable,” said McDavid’s head coach with the Otters, Robbie Ftorek. “He goes out and practices hard, too. He’ll do whatever it takes to get better. And he’s always talking on the ice. He’s a great kid.”
Although McDavid, a pass-first center who wears the number 97 for the year he was born, will be playing just the 11th junior game of his career on Friday, his 12 points (5g, 7a) in his first 10 games and current nine-game point-scoring streak have already drawn him a world of praise.
"He looks like he's got it all," said NHL megastar and hockey’s one-time “next one” Sidney Crosby earlier in October. "When I watched him play, he reminded me of myself.”
Despite the lofty compliments he’s received, McDavid is by no means a shoe-in to become the next Crosby, Tavares or Lemieux. After all, he’s still just a kid who goes to school every day without a driver’s license, and who won’t even be eligible for the NHL Draft until 2015.
“I think I’m a fast guy, but know I can get a lot faster,” said McDavid. “My shot needs to improve and I work on my defensive game every day during practice. And I work on getting better at faceoffs every day after practice.”
“He tries to work on everything to get himself better,” added Ftorek. “He’s always trying to get better. We had Ryan O’Reilly in here helping him on his faceoffs, which is something I know Connor wants to improve on. But when you have a kid who works so hard to get better, he will get better.”
Considering that McDavid is already a point-per-game junior player at a time when there isn’t another kid in Canadian major junior hockey as young as him, the thought of him having room to improve should both terrify OHL defenses, while making NHL scouts continue to drool through their pillows.
But even beyond McDavid, there are a few others Otters for fans to pay attention to on Friday night’s telecast. McDavid’s linemates, J.P. Labardo and Connor Brown, are both better than point-per-game players themselves, with 10 points in nine games and 11 points in 10 games, respectively.
Neither Labardo’s nor Brown’s draft rights belong to an NHL team yet.
Meanwhile, the Otters’ opponents on Friday night, the defending Ontario Hockey League champion London Knights, have their own handful of players that are worth extended looks.
One of London’s co-leading scorers is Max Domi, who is the son of former longtime NHL enforcer Tie Domi. Additionally, the Knights’ roster also sports 2012 Pittsburgh Penguins first-round draft pick Olli Maatta, and Seth Griffin, the Knights’ leading scorer from last season who has 15 points in his first eight games of the 2012-13 season.
Domi, Maatta, Griffin and the Knights can be followed on Twitter all season at @GoLondonKnights.
Wunderkind Connor McDavid and the Erie Otters can be followed at @ErieOtters.
Photos by Getty Images
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|Last Updated on Friday, 19 October 2012 14:58|