It’s not a done deal yet, but if I were a betting man I’d say the ‘C’ for Connor McDavid’s jersey is tucked away somewhere in the Oilers equipment room, just waiting to be revealed any day now.
At 19, McDavid would become the youngest NHL captain in league history.
High praise, when you think of the young captains who have come before him. Detroit’s Steve Yzerman, at 21, Chicago’s Jonathan Toews, at 20, and Vincent Lecavalier, at 19. Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby received the C as a 19 year old, but he had already played two full seasons in the NHL.
In Edmonton, fans have no problem jumping on the coattails of a young leader.
At 22, Wayne Gretzky was passed the torch from then-captain Lee Fogolin, becoming the 7th captain in franchise history.
McDavid has had a bit of a trial run at wearing the C, as Team North America’s captain at the World Cup of Hockey. A team that Oilers head coach Todd McLellan said was full of future superstars and captains in their own right.
McDavid as captain ‘makes sense’
The fact that McDavid was named captain didn’t surprise anyone.
John Shannon, a longtime hockey analyst who works for Rogers Sportsnet, figures Edmonton’s announcement will be only a matter of time.
“The inevitability of him becoming the captain of the Edmonton Oilers makes sense,” said Shannon, who watched McDavid and his teammates electrify fans with their play.
“Based on the fact that a management team that included [Oilers general manager] Pete Chiarelli, and a head coach that was Todd McLellan, had him as the captain of the 23-and-under team. So, I think at some point, you can see the writing on the wall.”
Talking to a Canadian Press reporter earlier this summer about the possibility of being named Oilers captain, McDavid said: “It would mean so much.”
“It would definitely be an accomplishment that I would be the most proud of,” McDavid said. “But that’s still to be determined and I don’t want to talk about it too much, or anything like that.”
If it happens, McDavid would be the first Oiler to wear the C since Andrew Ference.
Already the leader on most nights
Despite a shortened sophomore season last year, where he missed 37 games due to a broken clavicle, McDavid scored 48 points in 45 games and was clearly the leader for the Oilers on most nights.
Already this year, after returning to the team from the World Cup, McDavid’s leadership qualities have been unmistakable. Winger Milan Lucic, the former Los Angeles King and Stanley Cup winner with the Boston Bruin, told Oilers TV he quickly noticed how the 19 year old carries himself.
“It’s great to see a 19 year old who’s a guy who loves the game, and loves his teammates,” Lucic said after practice earlier this week.
“I think the potential is definitely there. He’s mature, a very mature young man. It’s surprising that he’s only 19 years old, the way he carries himself. I think that’s what’s going to make him a great leader, possibly at some point the next captain of the Oilers.”
Watching the kid grow up in Ontario, Shannon said the hard work that turned McDavid into the player he has become started years ago.
“Let’s face it, this guy has been on a big hockey stage since he was 14 years old,” said Shannon.
“He may be new to the National Hockey League, played under 50 games in the NHL, but when you consider what he’s done on the international stage, what he did in the [Greater Toronto Hockey League] as a teenager, this is one part of what McDavid offers. It’s not just his sixth sense on the ice, his speed, his skill. It is his leadership.
‘I was very comfortable with it’
“And whether it’s that quiet mood that he can create, or that intensity that he can create, or the jokes that he can create, leadership has always been a part of McDavid’s strengths.”
A characteristic that was only strengthened by his international play last spring, and by an impressive showing at the World Cup of Hockey.
Wearing the C for the North America team was an honour, McDavid said.
“It was great. I definitely felt proud and humbled to wear the C on a team like that. I was very comfortable with it.”
As for the coming NHL season?
“I definitely feel more comfortable, just a little bit more experienced,” he said. “I know all the guys. And I think last year, that was a hard thing for me, to come in and then not really know anyone. Didn’t really know your place and all that. But definitely feeling more comfortable heading into this year.”