And as the young phenom began plying his trade in the big leagues, raising his stock with each passing game, the trade chatter regarding star teammates Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle slowly grew. Eventually a move just seemed inevitable, with theories ranging from culture issues, the need for a defensive upgrade, or the fact that the Oilers were simply destined to become “Connor’s team” sparking the discussion.
Those long-awaited deals came to be, of course, with Hall moving on to New Jersey and Eberle more recently getting flipped to the New York Islanders.
But even though it seemed an expected result to many outside the Oilers organization, there’s no question those two moves were hard to stomach for those within the locker-room.
“It never gets easier,” McDavid told Postmedia’s Mike Zeisberger on Saturday. “Jordan’s a great friend. We’re really close. He did a lot for me coming in as a young guy, taking me around Edmonton and kind of taking care of me. It’s never easy to lose a friend like Jordan or Taylor. It sucks.
“It just goes to show you that it is a business. But friendships do last. I talk to Taylor all the time, I was at Ebs’ wedding …Those are the types of bonds you get when you are on a team.”
This isn’t McDavid’s first trade-market rodeo. He first endured the sting of hockey’s financial side during his junior days with the OHL’s Erie Otters.
“I learned about that at an even younger age than people know of,” McDavid said, referring to a pair of trades that sent close friends Hayden Hodgson and Stephen Harper out of Erie and onto other OHL squads. “Two months into my second (OHL) season my roommate got traded. And for me, it was like: ‘This is insane. …You can’t get close to anyone.’ It was so hard for me. And then a week later, my other buddy got traded. …It was kind of a rude awakening.”
At least McDavid can take solace in the fact that his former mates seem to genuinely appreciate the time they spent alongside him, especially those who witnessed the beginning of his rise to NHL superstardom.
“It seems like a long time ago,” Hall said of his time with McDavid. “Going out for dinner with Connor, he was so bright eyed and trying to find his place on the team. We all knew he was the face of the team the first day he stepped on the ice for training camp. Selfishly, it’s kind of cool that I got to experience that with Connor because he’s going to be one of the best players in the game. I was there for his first training camp and I was able to spend time with him away from the rink, which a lot of guys didn’t get the chance to do. That’s pretty cool for me.
“But a lot has happened since then. Connor’s a Hart Trophy winner, I’m on a different team, Jordan’s on a different team. A lot can happen in this game and it just goes to show you, you have to enjoy the present at any given time.”