It was no secret to what the Edmonton Oilers were getting when they drafted Connor McDavid as the first overall selection in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. The fleet-footed centerman had racked up points for years as a major junior player in Erie, while scouts drooled over the thought of him leading their respective teams. Those around him even entertained the label of prodigy.
But, when he reached Edmonton, McDavid was faced with the pressure of living up to the hype, and maybe even more challenging, revitalizing an Oilers franchise that hadn’t made the playoffs since he himself was nine years old.
It is because of this, that as we watch the McDavid-led Oilers take a 2-1 series lead over the San Jose Sharks in this year’s playoffs, that he be awarded the Hart Trophy for league MVP. And his numbers make for a strong case. Not only did he lead the league in scoring, but was also the only player to reach the 100-point plateau. The closest after him was Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby, with a distant 89. This season also proved him to be a true playmaker who made everyone around him a scoring threat, as he finished the season with the most assists in the league with 70.
Now when deciding the winner of this award, it is important to remember what it means: most valuable player. McDavid continues to fit the mold.
In an article by Dave Deluca of the sportingnews.com, he highlights McDavid’s massive impact on the Oilers. “He [McDavid] was involved in a league-leading 41.1 percent of the Oilers’ goals this season. That’s four percentage points more than the second-best rate [Patrick] Kane contributed.”
To put this more into perspective as far as this year’s Hart race, McDavid’s closest competition, Sidney Crosby, accounted for just 31.5 percent of the Penguins total offense. The Penguins are simply better equipped to survive an injury to Crosby, compared to the Oilers if they were to lose McDavid, who’d certainly struggle just to tread water if the situation arose.
The other advantage McDavid may have up his sleeve is the vast improvement his team has made while flourishing individually at the same time. At this point last season, the Oilers sat at home, and for the tenth year in a row, forced to watch the playoffs from their couches, instead of taking part themselves. A season that was reason for excitement with the league’s debut of McDavid, was painfully cut short when he broke his collarbone while sliding into the boards. It caused him to miss 37 games of his promising rookie year.
One season and a healthy superstar later and the Oilers finished with 103 points, a 33 point jump from last year, which was good enough for second place in the Pacific division and a playoff spot. Crazy what can change when you have the best young player in the world.