EDMONTON — The draft day hype machine has grown so exponentially over the years that it has become nearly impossible for a young prospect to live up to his billing.
Then there is Connor McDavid, who exceeded his.
McDavid went into the Edmonton Oilers’ season finale Sunday with 98 points, yet among 18,347 fans at Rogers Place in Edmonton, there were likely 18,000 who would have bet their mortgage on McDavid having a two-point night.
He did it in style, waiting until late in the second period to collect an assist, then getting the second on a Leon Draisaitl goal at 1:50 of the third period, lifting the roof off the arena.
One hundred points, and one Art Ross Trophy. They billed him as the next Sidney Crosby, but at only 20 years old, McDavid is even better than they said he’d be.
“It hasn’t really sunk in yet,” said the Oilers captain, when asked what a scoring title means to him at age 20. “I don’t really know what to say, it means so much for me. I would not be in this position if it not for the guys on this team.”
“I knew he was going to get those two points. It was just a matter of time,” said defenceman Oscar Klefbom, who was trailing the play when McDavid broke over centre ice on a three-on-two, and a hockey country watching the final game of the 2016-17 regular season slid to the edge of its seat in anticipation.
McDavid slid a pass across to Draisaitl, whose centering pass caromed in off a Vancouver defenceman for point No. 100. It was an emphatic two-point night for hockey’s next, best player, and the first Art Ross Trophy of who knows how many?
“I just tried to get it into Leon’s hands, He’s going to make a good play with it,” he said. “It’s not the nicest play I’ve had this year, but I’ll take it.”
McDavid finishes the season with as round a set of numbers as anyone could ask for: 30 goals, 70 assists and 100 points. Crosby finishes second with 89 points, in a scoring race that once was close, until McDavid put his foot on the accelerator with a season-ending 14-game point streak (7-18-25).
It’s the longest point streak of any NHL player this season.
“Any time you get a talent like this it’s a special time. He is our unquestioned leader,” said goalie Cam Talbot, who got the night off. “A lot of people questioned that decision at the beginning of the year, thinking maybe he was too young to take the ‘C’. But he’s our leader.
“Where he goes, we go.”
Jordan Eberle notched his second career hat trick in the game, a 5-2 win in which the Oilers outshot the woeful Canucks, 44-17. They came to see McDavid hit triple figures however, playing all 82 games after that broken collarbone cost him half of his rookie season.
In his second season, 2006-07, Crosby won the Art Ross as scoring leader, the Hart Trophy as MVP, and the Lester B. Pearson Trophy (outstanding player as chosen by NHLPA members).
Wayne Gretzky won the Hart Trophy in his rookie season, after a professional season in the World Hockey Association, and lost the Art Ross in a tie with Marcel Dionne, who had more goals. In his second year he won the Hart and Art Ross.
McDavid has the Art Ross as a sophomore, and should be nearly unanimous for the Hart and the Pearson, lugging a 29th place Oilers team one year ago into a tie with Montreal for seventh place in the NHL this season, with 103 points. Draisaitl finished eighth in scoring (29-48-77), giving Edmonton the most deadly pair of linemates in the NHL this year.
All of this as the youngest captain in NHL history.
“We sit beside each other in the locker room, so we get to talk about a lot of things. With the team, and just life in general,” said Milan Lucic, who has mentored McDavid through the season.
“Coming into his second year, sometimes he maybe doesn’t see things that I’ve seen in the past, that need to be rectified. That’s where I’ve been able to help him out as a captain,” Lucic continued. “But to be honest, he’s impressed me with how much help, or advice, he hasn’t needed. He’s put the team on his shoulders — especially when we needed him to, during the hard times, and taking this team to where we’ve gotten this year.”
The fact that Eberle scored his hat trick off the second line — after his linemate Lucic had done the same thing only three games ago in San Jose — is evidence that this Oilers team is not just a one-horse show.
They’ve got a solid blueline, a Top 10 NHL goalie in Talbot, depth up front — and until they play Pittsburgh, the undisputed best player on the ice every night in McDavid.
The Oilers draw San Jose in Round 1 of the playoffs.
If we’re talking about the Lucic line when that series is over, that means the Sharks have handled McDavid well in his playoff debut.
How many of you think we’ll be talking about the Lucic line?