The Friesen Files: McDavid ‘just as good as Crosby’ at same age

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The Friesen Files: McDavid ‘just as good as Crosby’ at same age
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For the first time since Nov. 6, Connor McDavid was held off an OHL score sheet on Wednesday night against the Niagara IceDogs. The match ended the Erie Otters superstar’s 27-game scoring streak that included 26 goals and 67 points.

The Newmarket, Ont., native’s scoring tear flared up more conversations on whether he has the edge on Sidney Crosby at the age of 18 or vice versa. When just evaluating pure numbers, Crosby’s 2.70 points-per-game ratio with the Rimouski Oceanic is slightly better than McDavid’s 2.53 average, but one has to take into account that the OHL has a reputation as being harder to score in than the QMJHL.

“He will change a franchise like Crosby,” says an NHL scout. “I would say he’s just as good as Crosby when he was his age. You could argue McDavid has the edge in some areas, but the same arguments could made for Crosby. It’s so close that I wouldn’t be willing to say one is better than the other."

There is understandably some skepticism surrounding McDavid because of former hyped prospects that have turned out to be busts such as Alexander Daigle. Moreover, some first overall picks like Vincent Lecavalier have fizzled out near the end of their careers. Only time will tell for certain, but all signs point to McDavid developing into one of the best players the NHL has ever seen.

“I’ve heard people say that the same stuff was said about Daigle and other guys, but those are always people that have never followed this kid,” says the scout. “He’s a very special player – a type of player you only see once in a decade. You can’t compare the recent first overall picks to him. He’s on a different level than them.”

Eichel watch

Jack Eichel added a Beanpot title to his resume on Feb. 23 when he helped Boston University defeat Northeastern 4-3 in overtime. Albeit he was dangerous from start to finish, he failed to register a point in the tourney until he helped set up Matt Grzelcyk’s game-winning goal in the final.

The 6-foot-2, 194-pound centre did receive some bad publicity from the tourney, though. The 18-year-old was videotaped drinking alcohol out of the Beanpot trophy. It’s hard to image that there are people naïve enough to be surprised by an underage college student drinking beer. But at the same time, it may concern some NHL teams if they foresee Eichel developing a reputation as a partier. Whichever organization drafts the Massachusetts product second overall won’t want to see him break curfew to have a night on the town.

Eichel, who has 18 goals and 55 points in 32 games, has his sights set on two more championships: The Hockey East Conference Championship (which starts today) and the Frozen Four. It obviously won’t be an easy task, but it’s possible when taking into account the Terriers are the sixth ranked team in the NCAA.

Five to watch

Kyle Connor, centre, Youngstown Phantoms (USHL) – The University of Michigan commit, who is ranked 14th among North American skaters in NHL Central Scouting’s midterm ranking, is one of the more enticing two-way forwards in the draft. The 6-foot-1, 183-pounder is a mature and intelligent player with soft hands and elite hockey sense. He has notched 25 goals and 61 points in 45 contests in his third season with the Phantoms this season.

Jakub Zboril, defence, Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL) – The Czech Republic import has asserted himself as a consensus first-round prospect in his rookie season with the Sea Dogs. He possesses an enticing blend of size (6-foot-2, 185-pound frame), an accurate shot, a smooth stride and top-notch hockey sense. In addition, Zboril, who has nine goals and 27 points in 40 games, has shown he has an edge to his style of play by spending 63 minutes in the sin bin.

Callum Booth, goalie, Quebec Remparts (QMJHL) – Booth, who has posted a .900 save percentage and 3.08 average in 38 contests, is the second best North American netminder in the draft, at least according to NHL CSS. His imposing 6-foot-3, 196-pound frame, athleticism and quick glove hand stand out about him the most. He was the Remparts’ No. 1 puck-stopper at the start of the year, but he found himself in the backup role when they acquired Montreal Canadiens pick Zachary Fucale from the Halifax Mooseheads for their Memorial Cup push.

Jake DeBrusk, wing, Swift Current Broncos (WHL) – The Edmonton, Alta., native’s draft stock has risen from a mid-round pick to a potential first-round selection this year. It is a testament to the 1996-born 18-year-old’s reputation as a classic late bloomer. He has led Swift Current’s offense with his two-way play, goal scorer instincts, good mobility and gritty attitude, netting 36 goals and 68 points in 67 matches along the way.

Austin Wagner, wing, Regina Pats (WHL) – The 6-foot-2, 180-pound Wagner, whom NHL CSS ranked 43rd in its midterm ranking, has blossomed into a top-six forward on the retooling Pats this season. Largely because of his elite speed and increased ice time, he has racked up 19 goals and 37 points in 56 contests following only notching two points in 42 games last year.

“I noticed his speed and size right away (at training camp) and thought he could be a good player for us,” says Pats head coach John Paddock on Wagner. “You can’t teach size and speed is something you can learn, but he has a natural ability that not many players have. Those two things make him stand out and are a big reason why he’s made an impact for us this year.”

Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen

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