The last time I talked to Erie Otters Owner and GM Sherry Bassin was this past February. We talked about his days as an Assistant GM with the Quebec Nordiques, what was going on around the OHL at the time, and of course we talked about 16-year old wunderkind, Connor McDavid. When I asked Bassin about McDavid, the kid who many project to be the #1 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, he holds his young phenom in very high regard. Bassin told me, “Nick, he’s the best prospect to come along since Bobby Orr.”
I’m a little surprised he said Bobby Orr instead of Wayne Gretzky being that McDavid is a forward, but either way, that’s tremendous praise for someone who was at that time barely eligible to get his G1 drivers license.
One may think Bassin is a little biased being that McDavid plays for his Erie Otters, but Connor’s performance speaks for itself. The night I talked to Bassin, his Otters were playing my hometown Oshawa Generals, and McDavid was outstanding. Not only did he register a goal, but he also controlled the flow of the game his lightning-fast speed, nasty hands, and very high hockey IQ/sense. This game is really a microcosm of McDavid’s short, but highly successful career. The stats and accolades speak for themselves. After notching 72 PTS in only 33 GP with the Toronto Marlboros in the GTHL, McDavid became only the third player to gain early entry level status into the OHL in 2012, joining the likes of John Tavares in 2005 and Aaron Ekblad in 2011. It was a no-brainer for the Otters to take him with the first pick in the draft, and McDavid paid dividends immediately. Even though Erie finished dead last in the Midwest division, McDavid still managed to put up 66 PTS in 63 GP, earning him the OHL’s Emms Family Award as top rookie of the year. The 2013-14 season appears to be no different, as McDavid already has 13 PTS in 9 GP, while the Otters are only one point back of London for 1st in the division.
McDavid’s international play is just as good. It’s hard to believe that someone of his age can already have an overseas impact, but he’s done just that. At this summer’s annual IIHF Ivan Hlinka U-18 tournament, McDavid led the tournament in points, all the while pacing Canada to their third gold medal since 1999, dethroning the 4-time defending champion United States. There’s already been talk of putting McDavid on the Team Canada World Juniors come December, a team looking for their first gold medal since 2009, because he’s simply too good to leave off the team. If he does so, he’ll become the first 16-year old to make the team since Sidney Crosby.
It’s not just Bassin and myself that are gushing over McDavid’s skill set though, current NHL’ers are doing so as well, including the best player in the game today. At a workout camp in August with NHL players McDavid fit in so well, none other than himself Crosby said, “When I watched him play, he reminded me of myself.” When the best player in the world says he sees a bit of himself in another player, you know that player must be something special. Not only do McDavid’s skills and style of play remind me of Crosby, it’s the way he makes those around him better, just as Crosby can do. Look at McDavid’s teammate Connor Brown for example. Before McDavid’s arrival, Brown had 53 PTS in 68 GP, and was a brutal -72. Granted, the Otters were brutal in 2011-12, and didn’t change much going into last year aside from picking up McDavid, but there’s no doubt McDavid helped the team improve, specifically with Brown. Playing on a line with McDavid last year, Brown led the team in scoring with 69 PTS in 63 GP, and cut his +/- down to -11. Nine games into the 2013-14 season playing with McDavid, Brown is leading the OHL with 20 PTS, and is a +1. But when Brown played for the Toronto Maple Leafs at their annual rookie tournament without McDavid in September, he didn’t look right, something seemed off, and he didn’t have a very good tournament. Regardless of whether his tournament play can be attributed to lack of ice time or any other reason, when Brown’s playing with McDavid, he’s a better all-around player.
Whether you look at his individual stats, or how his game positively influences other teammates, its no wonder why this kid is being touted as the next Sidney Crosby. With his tremendous talent, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if he does.