After a lot of handwringing over a so-called slow start, Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid finally had the explosive performance many were waiting for with a three point night against the Calgary Flames on Saturday. The Oilers’ number one draft pick from the 2015 NHL Entry Draft picked up two goals and assist against the Flames, notching four shots on goal in 17:45 of ice time.
McDavid was electrifying even when he didn’t score, like on a move where he deked out the Calgary’s defence but wasn’t able to squeeze the biscuit past a game Jonas Hiller.
But the Oilers did pick up their first win of the season, with Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov also scoring.
For those keeping track, that means Edmonton received goals from four number one draft picks. Yakupov was selected first overall in 2012, Nugent-Hopkins was selected first overall in 2011 and Hall went first overall in 2010.
Does this mean that the Oilers are finally seeing their young stars pay off in a big way? Possibly. They were the better team on Saturday, besting the Flames despite losing seven in a row to their provincial rivals. Calgary has had Edmonton’s number, outscoring them 21-8 over the course of 2014-2015.
Saturday night’s win may not be a reversal of fortune, but it did give McDavid his much-awaited time to shine.
“Best game yet, I think, from Connor,” Oilers head coach Todd McLellan said. “He made an impact throughout the night. Had an impact on the score sheet, probably could’ve had more of an impact there even with some of the chances he had. I thought he finally let himself go and gave himself permission. Sometimes you have to do that to get after it.”
In five games, McDavid has four points but sits at a minus-3. That’s hardly shocking given the Oilers’ lack of structure so far, but he’s fitting into the operation rather well and is piling up some critical learning experiences.
Consider that McDavid was in tough against the St. Louis Blues on October 15, landing 20:17 in ice time over the course of 25 shifts. He went without a shot and was on the ice for three St. Louis goals, but it put him in some rough situations and proved that McLellan has no disinclination when it comes to putting the kid in a tight spot.
McDavid called his own performance “average” against the Blues, showing a realistic awareness when it comes to his play.
“It’s not going to get any easier (for McDavid). That’s the NHL, man,” Hall said after the St. Louis loss. “We’ve been losing to St. Louis for, like, five years now…It’s fine if we can beat some of the bottom feeders, but if we’re going to make up any ground, we have to beat these [better] teams.”
As the season progresses for McDavid, expectations will remain unrealistically high. He was christened the Redeemer of Edmonton long before he even laced the skates for the NHL team and many are hoping that he’ll single-handedly provide the consistency this squad needs to put together some wins.
For now, it’s best to put one foot in front of the other. McDavid has a lot to take with him from Saturday’s performance against the Flames and he’ll be a huge part of this team in the near future, but patience is a virtue and Oilers fans are going to need an awful lot of it over the coming year.