When Connor McDavid was granted exceptional status last week to enter the Ontario Hockey League at age 15, he and has family might have fuelled some uncertainty over his enthusiasm to play for the Erie Otters.
Was there something to deeper going on, or was it just a case of a player and his family not being the types who rush into something rashly? Why commit if a player contract isn't signed? In any event, with the OHL priority selection draft seven days away, it appears the McDavid-Erie marriage will happen. Otters beat writer Victor Fernandes reported Friday that "a source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Friday that standout center Connor McDavid is expected to be the Otters' guest of honor" at a draft party the team is throwing on Easter weekend. The Ontario Hockey League priority selection draft is on April 7.
Fernandes also spoke to Ken Strong, McDavid's AAA midget coach with the Toronto Marlboros. It seems telling that the decision to apply to Hockey Canada for exceptional status was made with the knowledge the Otters, who won only 10 games all season, would chose No. 1.
Strong said [the McDavids] chose to apply "based on (Erie) was probably where he was going to end up. They haven't gone back from that."
Strong said he hasn't talked with McDavid or his parents in the past 10 days.
"The last I heard was (that) he was willing to go (to Erie)," Strong said. "They're good people. He just wants to play hockey. I know (Erie is) far away from home, but he's a mature kid."
Strong calls McDavid "the next phenom" and said he is clearly the top prospect in the draft. Strong raved about McDavid's skating ability, speed, hands and playmaking skills.
"He takes the puck into traffic and comes out with it," Strong said. (Erie Times-News)
This pretty jibes with what has been pretty much presumed all along. The Kingston Frontenacs, who choose second, have already said they expect Erie to select McDavid. Kingston is also planning to introduce their top pick to fans and media on draft day. Logistically, that's a lot easier when it's 99.9 per cent certain who will be chosen first. Kingston is expected to take McDavid's teammate, defenceman Roland McKeown.
Whether there was ever doubt about McDavid and Erie seems pretty doubtful. There are players and their handlers in each OHL priority selection draft who game the system to play for a big-market team (Kitchener, London and Windsor are the usual suspects) or so he can play closer to his hometown. The consensus best player in the draft typically will report. Steven Stamkos went to the Sarnia Sting in 2006, for instance.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.