At just 16, Toronto native Connor McDavid is already being compared to some of the greatest hockey players to have ever laced up a pair of skates. The 5’11, 170 pound centre is undoubtedly one of the most highly touted NHL prospects in the world, according to a myriad of scouts who were in attendance for the 2013 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Victoriaville, Quebec. However, although McDavid may be on the verge of attaining unprecedented levels of fame and success, he is, nevertheless, humble about his journey to greatness.
While chatting with him and his father Brian, after one of Team Ontario’s preliminary games in Victoriaville last month, the duo re-affirmed what has been well documented—McDavid is a very special player, and this was clear from an early age.
“[Connor] was probably two years old, [when] we bought him roller blades, and he put them on in our house,” Brian said. “He would just start skating around with a stick in his hand all the time, and I kind of knew then that he was a little bit different from the rest.”
McDavid credited his father as being the most influential person in his everyday life.
“He grew up playing the game, and he’s taught me everything I know so far. I owe [all my success] to him.”
McDavid even spoke candidly about how he could learn a thing or two from his role model, Pittsburgh Penguins star, Sidney Crosby.
“He’s a perfect role model for me. I think we’ve gone through a couple of similar things by having a lot of pressure [at a young age],” McDavid said. “He’s … a great player, on and off the ice.”
Brian asserted that his son’s strongest assets are his intelligence and his passion for the game. However, McDavid did admit that he would like to improve his defensive play and work on his consistency in the face-off zone.
“I want to become a 200 foot player," he said. "You can’t just be good in the offensive zone; you need to be good in your defensive zone, [as well as in] face-offs, because getting control of the puck is such a big part of the game."
This past March, McDavid was granted exceptional player status to play in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), which allowed him to play in the league before he turned 16. He is the third player to receive this status, the first of whom was New York Islanders forward, John Tavares.
McDavid is midway through his first season with the Erie Otters, but he admits that he has had to adjust to the size and speed of his OHL opponents.
“It [has been] a long transition, and I think it’s still happening. I’m still not quite used to the pace yet; but I think game by game, it gets a lot better,” he said.
McDavid also spoke about the advice he has received from current NHL players—including Tavares—who have reached out to him over the past year.
“Recently, John Tavares called me and I text him sometimes,” he said. “Sam Gagner called me and just wanted to see how I was feeling … which I appreciate tremendously. And lastly, is my agent Bobby Orr. Without him, I’d probably be nothing, so I’m forever grateful [to have] him.”
Despite all of the publicity and hype surrounding him, McDavid’s father does his best to make sure that his son does not lose his focus.
“I tell him to try to ignore it. It’s a long time until any comparisons [to other NHL players] are made,” Brian said. “He just has to ignore that sort of stuff and stay focused on his goal, which is to be a hockey player and to do everything that he has to do each day to realize his goal.”
I want to become a 200 foot player. You can’t just be good in the offensive zone; you need to be good in your defensive zone, [as well as in] face-offs, because getting control of the puck is such a big part of the game.
McDavid turned 16 just over a week ago and will not be eligible for the NHL draft until 2015. Although there is no guarantee that he will become one of the league’s best, his commitment and passion for the game should enable him to meet these lofty expectations.