Though no one would offer a firm date for McDavid’s return, at this rate the betting is that he could be back in the Edmonton Oilers lineup in mid-to-late January, rather than the early March return originally forecasted by the team.
“He’s ahead of schedule,” Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli confirmed from Detroit on Thursday. “He’s been in the pool, been lifting weights… There are no soft tissue injuries, which is important. When you get a break like that, oftentimes there is accompanying soft tissue injuries. That slows down the recovery.”
McDavid broke his clavicle (collarbone) in a Nov. 3 game against the Philadelphia Flyers. He underwent surgery to install a plate and screws, and afterwards Chiarelli estimated McDavid’s time on the shelf at four months, making for an early March return.
McDavid has recovered much faster than expected, though he has yet to resume skating.
Chiarelli refused to guess at a return date, but did say, “I can tell you that when it comes time, he is going to want to come back a lot earlier than what we forecast internally.”
When Chiarelli was the GM in Boston he presided over Patrice Bergeron’s concussion issues. There, Bergeron missed the season’s final 72 games and the playoffs after he was concussed and had his nose broken on a violent hit from Philadelphia’s Randy Jones early in the 2007-08 season.
“He’ll want to come back,” Chiarelli said of McDavid. “It’ll be interesting. We’ll make the best decision for the organization and Connor.”
McDavid is currently at his parents’ home in Newmarket, Ontario, said his agent Jeff Jackson. He will re-join the Oilers when they arrive in Toronto for a game against the Maple Leafs on Monday night, and travel back to Edmonton with the team after the game.
“He’s feeling really good. He’s getting treatment, working on different things,” Jackson said. “He’s one of those athletes, if he’s told to do something he’ll do it to the N’th degree. There are no shortcuts with this kid.”
McDavid was tearing up the NHL in his rookie campaign, leading all rookies at the time of his injury with 5-7-12 in 13 games. If he were to make a return on, say, January 19, that would leave 35 games remaining on the Oilers schedule.
“He wants to get back as soon as he can,” Jackson said. “He hates watching, and he wants to be on the ice with his teammates as soon as he can. I know it’s a cliche, but he hates it.
“No one is going to rush him back for the sake of having him back. If you picked a date, I’d add a week onto it. They’re not in the playoff race. They’re right there in games, but…
“He’s like a thoroughbred. You can’t keep him in the barn,” added Jackson. “Last year (while with Erie in junior) he broke his hand. The first day after he got the cast off he was on the ice shooting. Looked like he hadn’t missed a beat. He went right into the World Junior camp.
“He’s looking good, he’s very positive mentally. It’s all good news, really.”