Connor McDavid played 66 junior games for the Erie Otters this season and seven more at the world junior championship. Even when the hockey stopped, there was more to do.
McDavid went to Quebec City for the CHL awards, Buffalo for the NHL scouting combine, Edmonton for a visit and then South Florida for the NHL draft. This week, he’s back in Edmonton for the Oilers development camp, his first time on the ice in that orange and blue, and on Friday agreed to terms on his three-year entry-level contract.
Amid all the excitement of a new chapter, McDavid’s father is looking forward to his youngest son going home to Newmarket, Ont., next week and resuming life as a normal teenager.
“He’s had such a busy schedule the last, oh gosh, I can’t even tell you when he’s had any real significant downtime,” Brian McDavid said in a phone interview this week. “I’m really looking forward to next Tuesday when he gets back and he can sort of resume some semblance of a normal schedule, as normal as it ever gets for him where he can sort of be around, see his friends, get up to the cottage with us on the weekends.”
McDavid has had a spotlight on him for years, which helped prepare the McDavid family for the circus that was coming. His father said he was fortunate to know some people who played in the NHL, so the whirlwind of events even after Connor’s junior career wasn’t a surprise.
“It sort of just goes with the territory,” Brian McDavid said. “It’s cool, mind you, I have to tell you that. It’s very cool. But it’s not shocking all the things that are happening.”
Talked about as the next Sidney Crosby or Wayne Gretzky, McDavid has looked poised at every turn of this journey. Television cameras may have caught an unflattering look on his face when the Oilers won the draft lottery, but the reserved, genuine 18-year-old insisted that was no slight to the team lucky enough to draft him.
A couple of weeks ago, the McDavid family got a tour of Rexall Place and the new Rogers Arena, which is set to open for the 2015-16 season. Brian McDavid said the new facilities are “outstanding.”
Edmonton’s downtown is on the rise just in time for the “Next One” to burst onto the scene. Under new president Bob Nicholson, general manager Peter Chiarelli, coach Todd McLellan and with a revamped roster, the Oilers might be, too.
“Connor’s probably said it better than anybody: There’s no bad places to play in the NHL,” Brian said. “He’s realizing his dream, and he’ll be treated well and he’ll live in a good place. Yeah I think he’s going to be more than fine.”
There have been rumours about McDavid living with former Oilers captain Ryan Smyth. His father said Tuesday there have been some “cursory conversations” about that but nothing finalized.
“That’d be really cool,” Connor said minutes after he was drafted.
This week, McDavid flew from Toronto to Edmonton with Canadian world junior teammate Darnell Nurse, the Oilers’ first-round pick in 2013 and top defensive prospect.
“Darnell’s a little bit older, and he’s been out there,” Brian McDavid said. “He knows the lay of the land. It’s all great from our perspective.”
This process has been mostly great for the McDavid family, Brian said, with couple bumps and a little stress along the way. That’s to be expected, but he added that Connor’s on-ice play has made everything so easy.
“He just had such a terrific year that whatever happened was outstanding,” he said.
The best may be yet to come. After another summer of training and preparing, McDavid has training camp in September and then should make his NHL debut in October.
Just as Connor was careful to never publicly acknowledge he’d be the first pick or joining the Oilers, his family never got any team gear until he was handed the No. 97 jersey on stage at the draft.
Right now his father wants him to get some rest. But the next step is also not far away.
“Long-term of course I’m looking forward to him finally getting started,” Brian said. “And when I say finally, I always knock on wood when I say that because we’re a little bit superstitious.
“But I’m anxious for him to finally realize his dream and play in the league and hopefully be the kind of player he’s always envisioned he was going to be.”
McDavid’s new contract is worth approximately US$11.325 million in total – $925,000 per year plus bonuses – the maximum allowed for an entry-level contract.