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Connor McDavid playing home game in Buffalo Sabres arena

Neate Sager
Buzzing The Net

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McDavid and the Otters reached the OHL semifinal in 2014 (Graham Hughes, The Canadian Press)

Such is Connor McDavid's burgeoning fame, such is your small-market NHL teams' need for revenue streams and such is the league's desire to build up the NHL draft that this almost had to happen.

As the joke goes, the Buffalo Sabres are a safe enough bet to be in the NHL lottery that they might as well start hyping McDavid eight months early. It's hard to remember the last time a junior hockey star had the kind of cachet that his team could play a neutral-site game far from its home base. That will occur on Oct. 22 when McDavid and the Erie Otters play the Niagara IceDogs in a 'home' game at First Niagara Center.

From @BillHoppeNHL

That is actually less than the going rate for paying to get into many major junior arenas. The IceDogs and Otters could also both be OHL contenders, but that seems less important.

As a one-off, it makes sense. The 17-year-old McDavid is the most exposed junior hockey 'next one' for a number of reasons beyond his outstanding play for Erie, where he counted 99 points in 56 games last season. The Newmarket, Ont., native hails from Canada's biggest media market and plays for a U.S.-based team, which means there was more of a reason for the American media to perk up and take notice. Junior puck has also never been bigger as a media property, thanks to the escalation of the endless Bell (world junior championship) and Rogers (Canadian Hockey League coverage) media war. What that means for largely naive 17- and 18-year-olds goes under "details," but at least plenty can vouch for McDavid's maturity.

Or as Otters managing partner Sherry Bassin, a promoter at heart, put it:

A game in a NHL building was practically inevitable; anything the Sabres and Otters can draw beyond the size of the normal OHL crowd is a bonus. This is really about the NHL building up the Connor McDavid vs. Jack Eichel draft debate. With Eichel at Boston University, the two are only slated to go head-to-head in the world junior championship when Canada and the U.S. play on New Year's Eve in Montreal.

Such an event would probably happen regardless of the Sabres being projected to have a high pick in the 2015 draft. Makes for a good starter and ender, though.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.

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