One day, Connor McDavid will look back on a memorable first month of his NHL career and a forgettable November, December and likely beginning to 2016.
The Edmonton Oilers rookie centre suffered a broken left collarbone in Tuesday night's 4-2 win over Philadelphia and will be out for months, general manager Peter Chiarelli said Wednesday.
He is expected to have surgery later in the day.
"Connor is such a special player and is at such a young age that it's disappointing," Chiarelli said at Wednesday's news conference. "We won last night. Today feels like a loss but we'll get by it. We've got a good [medical] staff here. We've got good players."
McDavid went down with 1:44 remaining in the second period, falling awkwardly as he skated around Flyers defenceman Brent Manning and sliding into the end boards with Manning and defence partner Michael Del Zotto.
ok here is the McDavid injury pic.twitter.com/fpi51N7mI0— @myregularface
McDavid, whom Chiarelli said lost an edge, favoured his left shoulder as he skated off the ice. The 18-year-old centre was seen wearing a sling in the hallway behind the dressing room and did not return for the third period.
"The human side is there's an 18-year-old kid, so to speak, after the game that was very upset and had a significant injury to his shoulder," said Chiarelli, adding there will be plates and screws involved in the surgery. "He didn't have much to say. He loves to play the game and won't be playing for a while.
"The silver lining is that he's young. He's a strong kid, mentally and physically [and] he's still developing, so he'll come back probably even stronger."
McDavid's only notable injury in three junior seasons with the Ontario Hockey League's Erie Otters was a fractured bone in his right hand in a fight with Bryson Cianfrone of the Mississauga Steelheads last season. He did not require surgery but was out for five weeks, returning to play in the world junior championship and helping Canada to a gold medal.
With McDavid out, Oilers head coach Todd McLellan needs to decide on his second-line centre for the foreseeable future. Anton Lander moved up from the fourth unit to play with Yakupov and Pouliot in the third period on Tuesday.
Leon Draisaitl, who has seven points in three games since the Oilers recalled him from the Bakersfield Condors of the American Hockey League, is an option. However, he's flourished on the top line alongside Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
"We talked this morning and will continue to talk," Chiarelli said. "Leon gives us a very good option. The struggle is you take him off maybe one of the hottest lines in the league, but as he's showed in training camp and [here now] he can play both [wing and centre]."
"Leon is in the discussion... We'll make that final decision tomorrow." Coach McLellan on filling vacant centre spot in #Oilers lineup— @EdmontonOilers
Chiarelli added winger Jordan Eberle is "very close" to coming back after injuring his shoulder in training camp, "so he fits into the equation, too."
Chiarelli described McDavid as a bright-eyed kid that comes to the rink and makes everyone's day. He also emphasized the need for the team to move forward.
"He's always happy so that'll be missed," said the GM of McDavid. "I think because he's young, a lot of the guys [think] of him as a little brother.
"You talk about how a team can rally around [a serious injury to a player] too and that's what I expect to happen here. It's important that other guys step up their game."
Connor McDavid being out “months” is like your favourite TV show being put on hiatus. He was appointment viewing— @omgitsdomi
Nugent-Hopkins said McDavid, who has five goals and 12 points in 13 games, is already a big part of the team.
"It's a loss in that sense but we all just want him to know he has our support," Nugent-Hopkins said.
Pressure? What pressure?
There was plenty of pressure on McDavid entering the season to help Edmonton end its nine-year playoff drought, but he appeared up to the task.
Considered the best prospect since Sidney Crosby, McDavid was drafted first overall this past summer following a remarkable junior career in which he won Canadian Hockey League player of the year honours last season and dominated the OHL, scoring 44 goals and 120 points in 47 games.
McDavid carried his strong play immediately to the NHL with five assists in as many pre-season contests.
On Saturday, his seven-game points streak (four goals, 11 points) came to an end.
"I just feel more confident," McDavid said recently. "I know what to expect going in to a game now. You don't know what you don't know.… Now I have a better sense of the tempo the physicality of the game. Just the overall comfort level is the difference."