Everyone loves an underdog story, but at heart that’s about exceeding only modest expectations. There is nothing more satisfying to me than when a player comes in with sky-high, borderline unrealistic expectations—and then surpasses them. Connor McDavid, for years before his pro debut, was supposed to be a generational player, the sort of player who changes a franchise. Could he possibly ever live up to the hype? He’s still only 20 years old, and in just his second season, and he might already be the NHL’s best player.
McDavid scored his 100th point of the season in the Oilers’ regular-season finale on Sunday, a 5-2 win over the Canucks, and it’s merely a round number for the plaque on his Art Ross Trophy, which has been his to clinch for a while. He finished with 11 more points than the two runners-up, Sidney Crosby and Patrick Kane, two pretty good hockey players themselves.
Point No. 100, assist No. 70, came in the third period, and it’s cool to hear how the Edmonton crowd perked up as McDavid took the puck up ice. They wanted that century point perhaps even more than he did:
The pair of assists on the day made McDavid the first Oiler to reach 100 since Doug Weight in 1995-96, and McDavid and Leon Draisaitl became the first Edmonton teammates to finish in the top 10 in scoring since Jari Kurri and Jimmy Carson did it in 1988-89.
McDavid is also the third-youngest scoring champ in league history, behind Crosby and Wayne Gretzky. Good company.
“It hasn’t really sunk in yet, I don’t know what to say,” said McDavid. “It means so much to me. But like I keep saying I would not be in this position if it weren’t for the guys on the team, guys like Leon and Patty [Maroon]. Up and down the lineup it’s such an honor to play with this group.”
McDavid’s greatest feat may have been leading the Oilers to their first playoff appearance since 2006. I guess there’s your blueprint for success: Keep doing everything wrong and biffing your No. 1 picks and winning draft lotteries until you finally land the best hockey player in the world. I wonder why more teams don’t try that.
A Pacific Division crown and a match with in-province rival Calgary was still in play until the closing minutes of the game, but Anaheim got the point they needed and Edmonton will have to settle for a first-round matchup with the Sharks. Certainly no easy task, but this is likely the beginning of something, not the climax. McDavid has many, many years ahead of him, and he appears to be talented enough to make sure that any team he’s on can be a contender.