Connor McDavid bringing the spotlight back to Edmonton
19-year-old phenom intends to make the Oilers what they once were
Connor McDavid, the freshly minted teenage captain of the Edmonton Oilers has a simple goal: "We want to remake the Oilers name."
That is McDavid's mission. To bring back glory to a franchise that was once one of the very best in the NHL.
It has been a painful decade for loyal Oilers fans who have watched their team miss the playoffs in each of the 10 seasons since Edmonton lost the 2006 Stanley Cup Final to the Carolina Hurricanes in seven games.
But alas, there is hope the franchise has finally turned the corner, and most of that hope hangs on the fact McDavid may already be the best player in the league.
After captaining Team North America to an impressive 2-1 record at the World Cup of Hockey, McDavid, just 19 and the youngest captain in NHL history, is off to an impressive start to the new season with the Oilers.
Through their first six games, Edmonton is 5-1-0 and sitting near the top of the NHL's overall standings with 10 points. Last season it took the Oilers 14 games to accumulate 10 points.
McDavid has nine points (four goals, five assists) in those six games, also among the league leaders. It is not a stretch to think that by season's end McDavid will have left the others in his dust.
Playing on a line with veterans Milan Lucic and Jordan Eberle, McDavid kicked off the season with a two-goal, three-point performance in the Oilers' convincing 7-4 victory over their natural rival, the Calgary Flames, and then chipped in a goal and two assists in Edmonton's 5-3 win in the rematch.
After back-to-back pointless games, McDavid had a goal and an assist in a 3-1 win over the St. Louis Blues and then set up sophomore defenceman Darnell Nurse with a perfect saucer pass on a 2-on-1 in a 3-0 win over the Winnipeg Jets at the Heritage Classic this past Saturday.
Among those touting the exploits and quick rise of the NHL's latest superstar is none other than The Great One, Wayne Gretzky.
"At the end of the day [McDavid] loves playing the game," Gretzky said. "I'm really impressed with how mature he is … He is mature beyond his years and it's wonderful for the game."
Just as Gretzky did upon joining the Oilers as a teenage sensation in 1979 following one season in the World Hockey Association, McDavid is trying to put his team on the map. And even though he is the face of the Oilers, he'll have plenty of help. The Oilers are a solid organization top to bottom, with Bob Nicholson running the show as CEO, Peter Chiarelli as general manager and Todd McLellan as coach. And now add Gretzky to the organization's letterhead via his role as partner and vice-president of the Oilers' Entertainment Group.
It is a credible cast and the addition of McDavid, a true generational player, brings that credibility to the ice.
"He's obviously a special player," Oilers teammate Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said. "The first couple of times you see him out there you can just tell by the way he skates how good he is and how different he is than everybody else. His speed is definitely on another level."
And he is quickly helping to remake the Oilers name.