EXPECTATIONS HIGH FOR McDAVID’S BEST POINTS OUTPUT YET
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.