Connor McDavid had no idea what to expect as a 15-year-old rookie with the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League this season.
So the 5-foot-11, 175-pound center just set out to do what he does best: frustrate opposing defenders with a dazzling display of puck skills and shiftiness.
He's doing just that, even though he turned 16 in January and is the youngest player on the Erie roster. McDavid leads OHL rookies this season with 56 points (24 goals, 32 assists). His minus-17 rating is deceiving, particularly because Erie has struggled with 17 wins in 59 games.
"Personally, I think it's been a pretty good year, but team-wise, it's been a little frustrating," McDavid told NHL.com. "We're a young team still developing, so hopefully next year will be the year."
With McDavid back in the mix and one full season under his belt, there's no question Erie could be a team on the rise.
On March 21, 2012, McDavid was granted exceptional-player status by Hockey Canada, making him eligible for the 2012 OHL draft; less than a month later, Erie made him the No. 1 pick.
The native of Newmarket, Ontario, already is projected to be the first pick of the 2015 NHL Draft. Prior to joining Erie, McDavid had 209 points in 88 games for the Toronto Marlboros of the Greater Toronto Hockey League, including 33 goals and 72 points in 33 games in 2011-12.
Does he mind all the attention two years before he can hear his name called at the NHL Draft?
"I don't mind it, I guess," he said. "It's fun to do things like this. But sometimes it's fun just to go out there and be your own person on the ice. But it is what it is … comes with the territory."
The Otters certainly are promoting their rising young star at every opportunity.
On March 2, McDavid will be the focus of the organization's limited edition "Pack 97" package (his jersey number). The deal includes tickets to that day's game against the Windsor Spitfires, a McDavid-signed promotional stick, a photo of McDavid, and an invitation for two to attend an exclusive meet-and-greet with McDavid and select teammates following the game.
Prompted to compare his style with a current NHL player, McDavid seemed a bit uncomfortable. But he did provide a solid choice and the reasoning behind it.
"If I said anyone, I would say Claude Giroux," McDavid said. "I know that's a real unfair comparison since I'm nowhere near his level. But he's strong offensively and most importantly, cares about his own end. He really cares to be that full two-way player, and he's a great leader. That's what I aspire to be."
Chris Edwards, who specializes in OHL players for NHL Central Scouting, said he believes McDavid is going to be a unique player in the NHL someday.
"If he were eligible for the 2013 draft, he would be a high first-round pick because he reminds me of a veteran OHL player," Edwards told NHL.com.
In an effort to make McDavid's first season less stressful, the team has McDavid and the team's top 2013 draft-eligible player, forward Stephen Harper, living with the same billet family.
Harper, who has 16 goals and 31 points in 58 games, said it was the proper thing to do.
"It's been a great relationship. He's a great kid," Harper told NHL.com. "He's a high-end talent on the ice and he's nice off the ice. I can see him going high in the draft … he's definitely a contender for No. 1 overall and he expects that of himself. So he just needs to develop a few years and he'll be pretty good."
Harper is No. 38 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm list of North American skaters eligible for the 2013 NHL Draft.
"Stephen is a great guy; I live with him and we have fun together, so it's nice to have someone you could talk to and connect with," McDavid said. "He's done everything for me. As a player, he's unbelievable. He's big and fast and has skill to complement a great shot. His style of play is going to make him a great player in the NHL one day."
In the meantime, McDavid is just hoping to continue his ascent up the prospect ladder.
"We have a good young team [in Erie] and we will not be losing too many players next year, so that will help," McDavid said. "Mostly, the guys here are sort of getting sick of the losing. I think everyone will come back strong and believe that we have a great shot next season."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mikemorrealeNHL
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