McDavid-Konecny battle preview of ’15 draft

Connor McDavid. (Aaron Bell/OHL)
December 6, 2013, 9:55 AM

The 2015 National Hockey League Draft will be showcased when Connor McDavid’s Erie Otters visit Travis Konecny’s Ottawa 67’s on Friday Night Hockey.

McDavid, the anticipated first pick in the 2015 draft, is already a proven commodity with his ticket punched for Canada’s selection camp on Dec. 12. The young phenom, who took last year’s under-18 tournament by storm as a double-underager, is looking to become just the sixth 16-year-old to represent Canada at the annual under-20 World Junior Hockey Championship later this month.

Konecny, the OHL’s first overall pick last April, is making an immediate impact on the young 67’s. However, there isn’t much room for press clippings for a 16-year-old rookie when McDavid, also 16, is labeled hockey’s next great superstar, and one who will enter the NHL at a time of unprecedented economic growth.

WHAT’S ON THE LINE?

Last season’s bottom feeders are experiencing revivals so far in the young season. The Otters — whose 47 points last season were second-worst, ahead of only the 67’s and their 38 points — are the league-leaders and serious MasterCard Memorial Cup contenders at this point. The dog-eat-dog nature of the Western Conference just got much tougher now that the Guelph Storm, one of Erie’s main competitors, added Kerby Rychel and Nick Ebert in a trade with Windsor.

The Otters added Brendan Gaunce from Belleville a week ago, and the arms race in the West will only intensify as the trade deadline nears. Given the fact the Western Conference is shaping up to be the group of death when the playoffs roll around, positioning will be paramount in a conference with so many contenders, which should produce some premier matchups in round two.

The 67’s are rebuilding quickly, though not as rapidly as the Otters, who were at the bottom longer. Ottawa is turning a corner, and although the team is below .500 now, they will need to keep their foot on the gas to obtain a playoff spot. Beating a team like the Otters would continue cushioning their lead over Belleville and Niagara in the Eastern Conference while providing they can compete against an elite team.

KEY MATCHUP

Connor McDavid vs. Travis Konecny

The first overall picks in the last two OHL drafts will meet for just the second time in their careers. Although there may not be much of a comparison between the two right now, each is the same age and will be eligible for the same draft, unlike in the OHL draft where McDavid was given “exceptional player” status.

McDavid got the best of Konecny in the first meeting when the Otters prevailed 6-2 in Erie on Oct. 19. McDavid was the game’s first star with a goal and a helper, while Konecny finished without a point and a minus-2 rating.

Konecny is a feast or famine offensive threat, averaging more than a point per game although nine of his 27 games were multi-point efforts and he was held without a point in 11 contests. The budding power-forward has good bloodlines with cousin Bo Horvat, the ninth overall pick by Vancouver last summer. Konecny lives in McDavid’s shadow, but will begin escaping it as his exploits start to gain more notoriety.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Ottawa: D, Jacob Middleton

Middleton was the centerpiece to the package Ottawa received as compensation for Cody Ceci in a trade with Owen Sound last year. Middleton came into the league with much promise as a first-round pick of the Attack, taken seven picks behind McDavid, and is finding his niche with the 67’s. The sophomore defender blends a physical style with a developing offensive game. He won’t lug the puck up or act as the fourth forward, like the player he was traded for, but is becoming a reliable young rearguard.

Erie: RW, Connor Brown
The Toronto Maple Leafs took a flyer on Brown when they used a sixth-round pick in 2012 on a player who finished a minus-72 in 68 games. Consider the feather in their scouting staff’s hats now that Brown is the league’s leading scorer. The playmaking forward is taking every advantage of facing a different defensive rotation than McDavid’s line, providing the Otters with one of junior hockey’s most formidable one-two punches in a top six.

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