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Buzzing The Net

Erie Otters’ Connor McDavid scored this sick goal; now hold off the hyperbole (VIDEO)

Buzzing The Net

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McDavid is first in OHL rookie scoring (OHL Images)

Not many young players have the degree of patience Connor McDavid evinced on his latest great goal for the Erie Otters; nor does it seem anyone is patient to let him advance for the next two seasons, so a post is needed.

The 16-year-old Erie Otters exceptional player is going through the second-half struggles particular to Ontario Hockey League rookies who have been in frontline roles with their teams from the outset of the gruelling 68-game regular season. Yet through the grind, the playmaker par excellence can still author a bit of brilliance, like the game-winnin goal he scored Friday when the Otters knocked off the OHL-leading London Knights. McDavid spun off a check and then played cat-and-mouse with 6-foot-6 netminder Anthony Stolarz before zipping a backhand past the Philadelphia Flyers goalie of the future.

That's why the Sunday New York Times ("A Prodigy on the Way to Stardom") and USA Today ("Connor McDavid, 'the LeBron James of hockey,' is next") are profiling McDavid. It's a bit much, but sports is about selling hope and now two massive audiences who have never seen McDavid play or heard of the Erie Otters know about him.

Those who follow junior hockey more intimately are probably like, whoa, hang on.

It's not like one would expect the media to ever back off on hyping up a player, because there will always be someone else. It bears pointing out that despite Erie's season being a fizzle, McDavid has cleared the bar. This blog's low-ball ballpark figure for his final stats was 60 points. McDavid, with 54 in 52 Otters games entering Monday's action, is on his way to clearing the bar. The other big takeaway is that, relative to what other top-echelon talents have been like as rookies, is that he doesn't seem to force the play that others who have known nothing but dominating the younger age groups are prone to doing.

It will come, in time.

Then McDavid picked up the puck in his own zone and started up the ice. The crowd buzzed. With each stride, he gained speed and intent. He bent lower, then lower — swoosh — through the neutral zone, past one IceDog, past two, three.

They stood still, like driveway paint cans, or so it seemed. He was a blur.

“Oh my God,” someone murmured. Others stood.

McDavid had only the goalie to beat. He deked right, the goalie slipped aside, and, as he pulled the puck back, after it had been so loyal, so true, it slid away out of reach.

Everyone groaned, as if each had been shaken awake in the middle of a dream.

Jack Whipple watched the sprint from his perch in the corner of the rink. At every other home game for 17 years, since the Otters had moved to Erie, he had sat in the corner as a goal judge and watched the net. There, McDavid came racing toward him.

“He’s a step and a half ahead of the others,” Whipple said. “Just watch the little things he does. He’s the only one of the team that has any finesse around the net.” (The New York Times)

That's Connor McDavid at 16 and it explains the desire to get out of front of the story with the Sidney Crosby comparisons. It's not really fair to either the 25-year-old Crosby or 16-year-old McDavid, but whatever. The anticipation of what McDavid has in store for his likely only two remaining seasons of junior is sweeter.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to btnblog@yahoo.ca.

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