Erie Otters center Connor McDavid, who many project to be the No. 1 pick at the 2015 NHL Draft in Florida, was selected by Medvescak Zagreb in the second round (No. 77) of the Kontinental Hockey League draft Thursday.
Zagreb will hold McDavid's KHL rights, but that likely won't matter since the 17-year-old prodigy is expected to suit up for an NHL team in 2015-16 right out of training camp.
It's not the first time a player projected to be a top pick in a future NHL draft was selected by a KHL team. Ak Bars Kazan chose Taylor Hall (Edmonton Oilers) No. 89 in 2009; Vityaz Podolsk chose Nathan MacKinnon (Colorado Avalanche) No. 114 in 2012 and Podolsk chose 2014 top prospect Aaron Ekblad No. 171 in 2013. Ekblad is projected to be the top defenseman off the board at the 2014 draft in Philadelphia.
McDavid was granted exceptional-player status by Hockey Canada in 2012, making him eligible for the Ontario Hockey League draft as a 15-year-old. He was selected by Erie with the first pick and had 66 points in 63 games en route to being named OHL Rookie of the Year.
"McDavid never takes a shift off and, to be honest, I believe may be the one to beat in the 2015 draft," NHL Central Scouting's David Gregory said.
He earned three honors in the league's Western Conference this season for best playmaker, best skater and, for the second straight season, best stick-handler. He finished fourth in league scoring with 99 points (28 goals, 71 assists) in 56 regular-season games, and has 165 points (53 goals) in 119 career games.
McDavid, the recipient of the 2014 William Hanley Trophy as the most sportsmanlike player in the OHL, also had four goals and 19 points in 14 playoff games.
McDavid was the third player in OHL history to win the award in his 17-year-old birth year following Kirk Muller of the Guelph Platers in 1983, and Wayne Gretzky of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in 1978. He also became the second Erie player to win the award since Brad Boyes won back-to-back in 2001-02.
McDavid also had four points in seven games for Canada at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship, becoming the sixth 16-year-old to play for Canada's national junior team.
Central Scouting's Chris Edwards believes McDavid might very well be in the discussion with many of the premier players ever to be drafted.
"Connor has proven that the OHL made the right decision to grant him exceptional status," Edwards said. "If he were eligible for the 2014 draft he would be a high first-round pick because Connor reminds me of a veteran OHL player. His skill set is high end; his puck-handling and passing skill are also outstanding. He's creative and sees the ice well."