Five highlights of Connor McDavid’s return

(Frank Gunn/CP)

OTTAWA – All of Canada is planning on Connor McDavid being a dominant member of Team Canada’s World Junior Championship roster, but there were questions surrounding his fractured hand. In his first game since November 11, those questions were pretty much answered Sunday in Canada’s 5-2 win over Sweden.

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Here are five highlights from McDavid Sunday that should have every Canadian smiling from ear to ear.

He looked confident (to say the least)

Rusty? Yes. Nervous. No way. McDavid was able to get pucks to the net and had a handful of good chances, and was noticeably better as the game went on. He was all over the ice creating chances for himself and teammates. He missed a couple glorious opportunities to score and it looked like he and linemates Curtis Lazar and Nick Ritchie were struggling to find chemistry, but dangerous doesn’t do enough to describe the trio.

He played the body

Throwing checks is all part of playing the Canadian way, says McDavid. And No. 17 was involved physically.

On his first shift, he hit Swedish forward Lucas Wallmark with a shoulder check. Minutes later, Julias Bergman was his next victim. The not-so-strong opposition played a fairly physical game as well, but McDavid’s body language said—as his coach, Benoit Groulx, pointed out afterward—“I’m back now. I can battle through this.”

He took hits as well

Again, Groulx said it best: “Obviously they wanted to play him hard.”

This isn’t something I’d normally say, but given the circumstances it was great to see McDavid getting near-flattened against the boards by Sweden’s Axel Holmstrom late in the first period. He took a couple of big hits to show he isn’t shying away from playing physical on the international stage—recently healed hand or not.

He showed speed

McDavid blew past his opposition on more than one occasion. Late in the second period, when it seemed he had really found his legs, he effortlessly skated around top-10 draft-ranked blueliner Oliver Kylington and drove to the net. He wasn’t able to get the puck past goaltender Samuel Ward, but his trademark speed was on full display.

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He had fun

We know that McDavid isn’t phased by the hype that follows him everywhere he goes, nor is he new to wearing the maple leaf on his sweater. He had a smile on his face after long 40 days away from real competition. It looked like he was enjoying himself. Having Lazar, a noted smiler, as a roommate only helps.

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