Collarbone injury aside, Connor McDavid somehow managed to exceed the lofty expectations placed upon him by most the hockey world during his rookie campaign.
Still, the young phenom certainly knows there’s room for improvement.
“Yeah, definitely. It’s in the D zone,” noted the Edmonton Oilers center during a Monday morning appearance on Toronto’s Sportsnet 590. “Those big centermen in the West, especially the Pacific Division, down low and trying to contain those guys, I think it’s definitely a lot more challenging than I’d expected. It’s an area that I’ve been working on tremendously over the summer and through all of last year. I’ll continue to work at it.
“I definitely want to be that full, 200-foot player. As a young guy in the league, you definitely want to earn your respect in the D zone.”
There have been a number of key changes to the Oilers roster in recent months, which raises expectations for this low-achieving Oilers squad.
“Everyone definitely has high hopes this year for our team,” said McDavid. “For good reason. There’s been some good additions. Losing Taylor hurts, but Adam is a great defenseman. He’s someone that is so underrated. You don’t understand how good he is until you’ve actually played against him. I’ve played against him a few times and it’s definitely not very fun.
“Lucic speaks for himself. He’s such a big body, such a presence. Probably the toughest guy in the league. I expect that teams, when they come in to Edmonton, aren’t going to be looking forward to it as much as they have been in the past. We’re definitely going to be a hard team to play against and we’re going to have some skill to back it up. I’m definitely excited about it.”
Before the Oilers get going this season – in the team’s gorgeous new arena – the World Cup of Hockey will be taking place.
McDavid will be skating with the rest of the young NHLers on Team North America.
“It’s going to be a very good tournament,” predicted McDavid. “It’s going to be highly-competitive. It’s the best players in the world.
“For our team, it’s going to be about defense and being responsible in the D zone. Offensively I don’t think we’re going to have any trouble. It’s just going to be about keeping the puck out of our net. I’m very excited about the team that we have. We definitely don’t have too much pressure on us, which is always nice. I can’t wait to get it going.”
McDavid, incidentally, even at the young age of 19 years old, understood the cultural significance of Saturday night’s televised concert of The Tragically Hip from Kingston, Ontario.
“I was trying to watch,” relayed McDavid. “I was with all of my good buddies, and we were just at a friend’s house. I kept trying to put it on. Of course they wanted to watch the fight. I kept saying, ‘We’re missing a little piece of Canadian history.’ They didn’t seem to understand it.
“I definitely did watch a little bit. It was amazing. I think my dad is a little bit more upset than I am, but I definitely tried to tune in. My friends had other plans.”
Source: Sportsnet 590/ Transcript: Nichols