Calgary Herald - - SPORTS - TERRY JONES

ED­MON­TON In the com­ing days, the na­tional ob­ses­sion with hockey pools and pre-sea­son NHL pre­dic­tions will dom­i­nate con­ver­sa­tions in Canada.

If Con­nor Mc­David is able to play the full 82 games for a third straight sea­son, how many points will the Ed­mon­ton Oil­ers cap­tain be able to pro­duce this year?

His left-winger Ryan Nu­gen­tHop­kins isn’t pre­dict­ing or pro­ject­ing a num­ber for Mc­David other than it will be higher than the 100- and 108-point sea­sons that won him the last two scor­ing ti­tles.

“He looked pretty good his first few years. He’s prob­a­bly look­ing even bet­ter now at train­ing camp. He’s only 21. He’s still ma­tur­ing. He’s still grow­ing up. So it’s scary things to come,” he said.

There’s an en­tire in­dus­try of hockey pool pub­li­ca­tions out there, all with Mc­David pic­tured on the cov­ers and pro­jec­tions in­side.

The Hockey News projects 114 points. Hockey The Mag­a­zine has Mc­David pro­jected for 112. The Sports Fore­caster has him down for 108.

It says here they’re all likely to be low.

Mc­David is en­ter­ing his fourth sea­son in the NHL and his first play­ing for mega-money — US$12.5 mil­lion per year over the next eight years.

With the way he’s wired, he wants to prove he’s worth it.

Lead­ing the Oil­ers to suc­cess is also part of the mo­ti­va­tion.

“It re­ally doesn’t mat­ter how many points you get. You have to be do­ing your thing, play­ing within the sys­tem and be­ing re­spon­si­ble de­fen­sively. I think that’s the real key. You just want to win games. It doesn’t mat­ter how many points you get, you just want to be play­ing on a good, solid team here,” said Mc­David af­ter prac­tice Sun­day morn­ing.

The cap­tain said what he thought he saw go­ing into train­ing camp has def­i­nitely car­ried through to the fi­nal week of camp be­fore the Oil­ers fly over­seas.

“You can see the sense of ur­gency with the guys. Prac­tices have been a lot crisper. I’m not sure how it looks from the stands, but that’s def­i­nitely how I feel out there,” said Mc­David.

This year for the first year, Mc­David has a chance to play with the same line­mates all sea­son. Or at least that’s how he sees it with Nu­gent-Hop­kins and right-winger Ty Rat­tie.

“I strongly be­lieve that play­ing with the same play­ers for a long pe­riod of time def­i­nitely helps,” said the young su­per­star, who may have set some sort of record for the num­ber of dif­fer­ent wingers he has had to start his ca­reer.

“I’ve played with a lot of dif­fer­ent guys. I feel like you can put more depth in your game if you’re play­ing with the same guys,” he said.

“If you’re al­ways play­ing with new play­ers, you are al­ways look­ing over the ba­sics. If you can stay with the same play­ers for a long time, you don’t have to be con­stantly check­ing with the other guy to see if they un­der­stand the sit­u­a­tions.”

Then there’s the Oil­ers power play that ended up last in the league last year and ba­si­cally re­sulted in get­ting all the as­sis­tant coaches re­moved.

Dra­matic im­prove­ment is ex­pected there.

Re­cent re­search by TSN1260’s Ja­son Gre­gor re­vealed Mc­David pro­duced 71 points five-on-five last year com­pared to 35 by Sid­ney Crosby. Put up those same stats again five-on-five and add some se­ri­ous power-play num­bers and what do you have?

And head coach Todd McLel­lan sug­gested Mc­David’s ice time could be ex­pected to go up a cou­ple of min­utes.

Whether you use goals and as­sists or the Oil­ers’ po­si­tion in the stand­ings to de­ter­mine Mc­David’s as­cent, the real ques­tion is where his ceil­ing is go­ing to be.

“I think it’s too early for that,” said McLel­lan be­fore he took the au­di­tion­ing sup­port play­ers to Win­nipeg Sun­day.

“I think you only have to know him as an in­di­vid­ual to know that the ceil­ing is pushed way up.

“He’s not sat­is­fied. He’s what, 21 years old? He has a lot of hockey ahead of him. He’s watched some stars be­fore him grow their games like Sid­ney Crosby. He has a men­tor here in Wayne Gret­zky who grew his game.

“I don’t know where the ceil­ing is for Con­nor, but I know he hasn’t reached it yet. Maybe 10 or 15 years from now we’ll be able to point where the ceil­ing came, but I can’t guess right now.”


Just 21 and with two sea­sons of 100 or more points un­der his belt, the sky ap­pears to be the limit for Oil­ers cap­tain Con­nor Mc­David.

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