We went three months without seeing Connor McDavid play a game as he recovered from a broken clavicle, but any fans who forgot what he was capable of had their memories jogged this week as he returned to the Edmonton Oilers’ lineup.
The Oilers look like a different team when No. 97 is on the ice, something that was evident Thursday as McDavid earned two assists and helped lead his team to a 7-2 drubbing of the Ottawa Senators.
Earlier in the week, McDavid electrified fans with a three-point effort against the Columbus Blue Jackets including his goal-of-the-year candidate.
The innate skill he possesses is one thing, but McDavid’s incredible effort is also a key factor in allowing him to perform at the highest level and make plays like the one above.
Don Cherry, who watched McDavid play and evolve as a young teen in the Greater Toronto Hockey League prior to his time in the OHL with the Erie Otters, believes there’s a downside to this type of effort.
“I fear for him sometimes because he plays like Bobby Orr and Pavel Bure. He plays flat out,” Cherry told Prime Time Sports on Sportsnet 590 Thursday. "I predicted he'd get hurt the way he plays."
Orr and Bure -- both members of the Hockey Hall of Fame -- played only 657 and 702 career games, respectively, and both retired due to complications from injuries suffered throughout their careers. No one wants to see McDavid suffer a similar fate.
“He's so exciting and he has no fear,” added Cherry, who celebrates his 82nd birthday Friday. "I just hope he doesn't get hurt again because he's a beauty to watch."
Perhaps eventually we’ll see McDavid play a more cautious game. It’s something McDavid’s teammate Taylor Hall, a fellow first-overall pick, has learned to do over the years.
“Maybe I’m a bit more of a chicken sometimes, for lack of a better word,” Hall told reporters earlier this year.
“I just don’t feel like getting hit as much. It’s not as fun to be on the ground and on the IR all the time. Sometimes I might give up on a play to save myself a little bit, but I think I’m still able to be the same player that I was before. I’m just in the lineup every night, which is really important.”
Hall sits eighth in league scoring and is in the midst of arguably his best season as a pro. Meanwhile, McDavid (17 points in 15 games) ranks 16th among rookies in scoring, yet many believe he still has a shot at winning the Calder Trophy if he can stay healthy for the remainder of the season.
The Oilers' next game is Saturday afternoon against the slumping Montreal Canadiens on Hockey Day in Canada.