Connor McDavid is the consensus first overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, but the 18-year-old from Ontario is much more than just the best hockey player in this year’s class. McDavid will enter the league with the highest expectations of any player in recent memory.
McDavid has been viewed as a potential NHL star for a few years. Having been called “The LeBron James of Hockey,” it would be stunning to many if he doesn’t end up becoming one of the best players in the league. While those sound like unrealistic expectations, hockey's greatest player says he hasn’t seen a player this good since he joined the NHL.
"He's as good as I've seen in the last 30 years, the best player to come into the league in the last 30 years, the best to come along since (Mario) Lemieux and (Sidney) Crosby,” Wayne Gretzky told The Providence. “He can definitely change a franchise's fortunes."
Because his impending NHL career has been so hyped, McDavid is receiving a lot of comparisons to Crosby. The Pittsburgh Penguins star was considered a can’t-miss prospect when he joined the league in 2005, and he has certainly lived up to the grandiose expectations. Winning the Hart Memorial Trophy twice and being elected to five All-Star teams, Crosby’s career path is what many expect out of McDavid.
Having seen the projected No.1 pick a few years ago, Crosby was impressed with McDavid’s ability.
“He looks like he’s got it all,” Crosby said of McDavid back in 2012, via triblive.com. “When I watched him play, he reminded me of myself.”
Playing for the Erie Otters junior team in 2014-2o15, McDavid has totaled 44 goals and 120 points in just 47 games. He’ll start his career with the Edmonton Oilers, who won the NHL Draft Lottery.
Edmonton won the lottery after another disappointing season. The Oilers totaled just 62 points last season, finishing ahead of just two other teams. It’s been nine years since Edmonton reached the playoffs, and they’ve advanced beyond the conference quarterfinals once in the last 23 years.
Considering their recent lack of success, it won’t be easy for McDavid to turn around the struggling franchise. But Crosby got the Penguins to the Stanley Cup Finals in just his third NHL season, and Gretzky believes McDavid can bring his former team back to prominence.
"I hope he brings Edmonton a Stanley Cup and he breaks my records,” Gretzky said. “He's got the talent and the makeup to do it. I hope he leaves a couple for me, though. I could use that."
McDavid didn’t appear thrilled when it was announced that Edmonton won the first pick, and it led to speculation that he was unhappy that he’d be playing for the Oilers. But his father, Brian McDavid, says the projected top selection looks forward to joining Edmonton.
“Connor is very aware of the rich history and the passionate fans in Edmonton and would be proud and humbled to follow in the steps of those great players and teams,” Brian McDavid told the Edmonton Sun.