When a rookie starts out with a single point in four games, it’s not generally a big deal, especially when it’s an 18-year-old rookie.
But when that player is Connor McDavid, it becomes a story, because this 18-year-old is supposed to be different or so everyone has been told for the last couple years as the Canadian center has been cutting up the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and every international competition he’s taken part in during that time as well.
Selected first-overall this past summer, McDavid was heralded as “The Next One,” the latest in a lineage that traces back through Sidney Crosby to Eric Lindros and beyond “The Big E” to the last amazing your generational player to lace’m up in Edmonton, Wayne Gretzky.
Through four games, he tallied just one goal and you could feel people clearing their throats, readying to begin questioning whether he was as good as advertised or another Oiler’s first-overall selection that was going to be…
You know what? Never mind. He’s going to be something special.
Saturday night marked the first installment of “The Battle of Alberta” in 2015 – and McDavid’s first participation in the series – and the most anticipated new arrival in the NHL in quite some time rose to the occasion, registering two goals and one assists as Edmonton collected its first win of the year.
It was the first game where you saw how dynamic the Oilers could be in the offensive end when everything is clicking. All five of their goals were scored by first-overall draft picks – McDavid, Nail Yakupov, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall – and you got the sense that after a couple regular season games, these young talents are starting to figure out how to play together and something exciting (at least on the offensive side of things) is brewing in Edmonton.
Listen – this team is still a mess in their own end.
Offseason acquisition Cam Talbot is 1-3 with a 2.54 GAA and a .908 SV%, the defense corpse is a colossal work in progress and while there are a couple youngsters that should be good eventually, you have to wonder if it will be too late given that the forwards seem to be gelling now.
But those are issues to discuss throughout the season and going forward as the new Edmonton brain trust tries to work out from under the mess created by Kevin Lowe and his regime over the last several years.
As of right now, however, it’s pretty clear that McDavid’s going to be as good as advertised and that has to be a positive starting point.
He was the best player on the ice by far on Saturday night in Calgary and was a Jonas Hiller paddle save away from netting his first hat trick. Even with the save, his undressing of the Calgary skaters trying to keep him from the net was still impressive and a harbinger of highlights to come later in the year.
Remember that shootout goal Sidney Crosby scored against Montreal in his rookie year? The one with the right skate lift and the bottle pop? Saturday night’s dangle-fest would have topped that and he’ll get another chance or seven to do it again over the course of this season; his instincts in the offensive end is just too good and his hands are bonkers.
If all it took was five games for Connor McDavid to get comfortable with the pace and size of the NHL game, the rest of this year could be pretty fun to watch.