Connor McDavid was born to play hockey.
Wayne Gretzky is the Great One, the finest hockey player ever to lace up a pair of skates. Immensely talented prospects that have followed have been called the Next One, and include Eric Lindros, Sidney Crosby and John Tavaras. Connor McDavid may just be the Next Next One. The first overall selection in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, McDavid has become a superstar more quickly than even the most optimistic hockey fan could have imagined. He has scored 148 points over just 127 games to start his career and was named captain of the Edmonton Oilers at 19. In the seven decades the NHL has been handing out the Art Ross Trophy to the league’s top scorer, only three players have won the award as a teenager. Two are on the short list of the all-time best: Gretzky and Crosby. The other is the 2017 winner, Connor McDavid.
A nimble skater and deft puck handler, McDavid recognizes scoring chances before they happen. A superb shooter and passer, he has a high hockey IQ and makes those around him better. McDavid is one of the most touted players in Canadian hockey history. He won five Ontario Minor Association championships with the York-Simone Express before joining the Greater Toronto Hockey League at 14. In his one season in the GTHL, McDavid recorded 209 points in 88 games for the Toronto Marlboros and was named the league’s Player of the Year. In 2012, he became the third player in history [after John Tavaras, who this season scored his 500th NHL point, and Aaron Ekblad, a two-time NHL All-Star and 2015 Rookie of the Year. All three players went on to become the first overall pick in the NHL Draft] to be granted “Exceptional Player” status by Hockey Canada, the country’s governing body for amateur hockey. The ruling allowed the 15-year-old McDavid to play in the Ontario Hockey League a year early. McDavid was selected by the Erie Otters with the first pick in the 2012 OHL Draft, where he set a league record for most assists by a first-year player en route to being named OHL Rookie of the Year.
Born in the Toronto suburb of Richmond Hills, Ontario, January 13, 1997, Connor is the younger of two boys born to Brian and Kelly McDavid. The family lived in Newmarket, home of funnymen Jim Carrey and John Candy. McDavid first skated at three, insisting on wearing a helmet and hockey gloves. A year later, he started playing hockey [minimum age was five, so his parents lied about his age]. By six, young Connor had outgrown the local competition, so Brian and Kelly put him in a league in nearby Aurora, where Connor played against nine-year-olds – and dominated. When Connor was eight, Brian McDavid began coaching him with the York-Simcoe Express. By the time he was 12, the Express – which featured two other future NHL players — had won five straight provincial championships.
McDavid is a pass-first, shoot-second player who contributes on both ends of the ice. He possesses an uncommon intensity and unrelenting work ethic. McDavid has always been different. While the other boys were playing video games, Connor was outside shooting pucks in the rain. With the Triple-A Minor Toronto Marlboros, McDavid played a year above his age group. On a team loaded with OHL prospects, he was its best player. After being granted Exceptional Player status, he became the first pick of the 2012 OHL Draft and went on to be named Rookie of the Year. In his second year in Juniors, the 16-year-old garnered the OHL’s most sportsmanlike player and Scholastic Player of the Year awards. After being named Otters’ captain in his third and final season in Juniors, McDavid was named OHL Player of the Year and earned the Gretzky “99” Award as playoff MVP after scoring 49 points in just 20 postseason games.
Connor McDavid is the most decorated player in the history of the Ontario Hockey League, a circuit whose alumni include the legendary Gretzky, Bobby Orr and Denis Potvin. Believing the competition in the OHL was best for his development, McDavid turned down a scholarship offer from Boston College, a perennial collegiate powerhouse. The decision was a wise one, as the NHL Central Scouting Bureau listed McDavid the top North American prospect for 2015. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone with that kind of acceleration,” said Tavaras, current New York Islanders captain, after watching McDavid in the 2015 OHL Finals. “You think he’s at top gear and there just always seems to be another level.”
In the NHL, “generational players” are not just future hall of famers, but players who are in the discussion about the greatest of all time. Generational players can become not just the face of the franchise, but the face of the league. The first generational player was Gordie Howe. Orr came next, followed by Gretzky, Eric Lindross [before he was hurt], Mario Lemiuex and Sidney Crosby. The most hyped player since “Sid the Kid,” Connor McDavid is a generational talent. Elite Hockey Prospects called McDavid a “dominant center with all the will, power and intangibles to become a hockey luminary.”
The Edmonton Oilers won five Stanley Cup titles in seven years between 1984 and 1990. Led by Gretzky and a host of hall-of-famers, they were one of the most dominant franchises in NHL history. A quarter-century later, the Oilers had fallen upon hard times, finishing 28th in the 30-team league in 2014-15. The 2015 Entry Draft was one of the most talented in recent memory. The overwhelming consensus number one pick was McDavid – the Next One — who went to the Oilers. The Buffalo Sabres took Boston University’s Jack Eichel – whom many believe will become the best American-born player in history – with the second selection. The NHL may be in store for a Larry Bird-Magic Johnson-type rivalry, as both McDavid and Eichel were named to the league’s All-Rookie Team in 2015-16.
Less than a month after making his NHL debut, McDavid fractured his left clavicle in a game against the Philadelphia Flyers. He missed 37 games, which likely cost him the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year. In October 2016, the 6’1”, 195 pound center was named captain of the Oilers, making him, at 19, the youngest captain in NHL history. This past season, McDavid led Edmonton back to the playoffs for the first time in 11 years. After making his first NHL All-Star team, McDavid led the league in scoring, tallying 100 points on 30 goals and 70 assists for a young team that has designs on returning the Oilers to Stanley Cup glory. In June 2017, McDavid won the Hart Trophy as MVP of the National Hockey League, making him — behind Gretzky and Crosby — the third-youngest winner in history.
Today marks the anniversary of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, a two-day event that may have changed the face of hockey for a vicennial.