Buzzing The Net

Erie Otters’ Connor McDavid can’t hardly wait; Making The Jump

Neate Sager
Buzzing The Net

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Erie Otters rookie Connor McDavid (OHL Images)

The number of questions highly touted Connor McDavid faces might be nothing compared to how many he wants to ask.

The Erie Otters centre is considered the 'next one' as the first forward since current New York Islanders star John Tavares to enter the OHL as a 15-year-old, which means endless media attention. TSN has already sent a camera crew out to two Otters preseason games to capture footage of the Newmarket, Ont., native, while Sportsnet magazine is said to be considering a cover story. Meantime, McDavid, whose regular-season debut is set for Sept. 20 against the Niagara IceDogs, is trying to glean as much as he can from linemate/roommate Stephen Harper.

"They partnered us up right from the beginning," McDavid says. "I'm lucky to have him, for sure. He [the 17-year-old Harper] has helped me with everything, He's probably sick of me already by now, actually. I ask him everything and he always answers every question. It's great to have him here. They've been through it all."

McDavid's team will be one of the OHL's youngest and is coming off a 10-win season. The centre is careful to steer his answer about goals for his season away from statistics, perhaps knowing comparisons are going to be inevitable. (Tavares, for what it is worth, had 45 goals and 77 points in 65 games as a 15-year-old, but that was in a perhaps higher-scoring environment than the current OHL.)

"I've had that question [about goals] a lot and I can't put numbers on it because I don't think success is about numbers," says McDavid, who is listed at 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds. "Probably the main thing is to please myself, please my teammates and the staff and everyone. In terms of what I would see as a successful season, that would be a winning season for Erie."

McDavid's quickness and vision is what set him apart since an early age.

"I've always felt that I like to be a passer. I like to score a few myself. There's just something I like about being a playmaker."

The first fortnight of the season will be a road show for McDavid and the Otters. Their Sept. 20-21 trip involves the home openers of the reigning league finalists, Niagara and London. McDavid is also eager for an Eastern swing that includes facing some of his Toronto Marlboros minor hockey teammates, the Belleville Bulls' Michael Cramarossa and Kingston Frontenacs' Sam Bennett and Roland McKeown.

"I'm just so excited for it to be here," he says.

1. How would you say your past season progressed, from start to finish?

"Probably my defensive side of the game. [Otters coach] Robbie Ftorek is trying to teach me a lot about that at the moment. They can't put me out there if I am a liability in my own zone."

2. Whom in the NHL do you watch closely to get an idea of what it takes to thrive at the next level?

"I just try to watch everybody and learn from everybody. But probably I just watch the main guys, [Sidney] Crosby and [Claude] Giroux. Those guys are the true pros."

3. Your former Marlies teammates, Roland McKeown and Sam Bennett, have cited your father Brian as a big influence on them. When you've been down, how has he picked you up?

"Whenever I was down, he was never just that shoulder or whatever. He would be always be tough on me. He would tell me what I needed to hear, even though I didn't like hearing it. He taught me that with every mistake comes a lesson learned and I'll be forever grateful for that."

4. Have people at your new school figured out you play hockey and it's kind of a big deal?

"Down here it's more about the football. I'm not really a big deal at the school. It is good to go and be relaxed and know that I don't have too many eyes on me."

5. The anniversaries of the 1972 Summit Series and 1987 Canada Cup are getting a lot of coverage in Canada. What role would you choose if you could have been Paul Henderson crashing the net to score the winning goal, Wayne Gretzky sliding the puck over to Mario Lemieux in '87 or Sidney Crosby sniping the winner in the 2010 Olympics?

"That's an extremely hard question. Probably Crosby in 2010 just because thinking about it makes me so excited remembering watching it. I can't imagine what it would be like to be the guy who scored it... 2010 was more my time, my generation. I don't know what it was like back in '72 or '87. Maybe it was exactly the same and I just don't know. But for me, it was definitely 2010."

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at neatesager@yahoo.ca and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet .

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