Hockey phenom Connor McDavid has been playing against older players for much of his life. But Thursday he skated against a whole new level of competition when he faced off against NHL players at the annual Biosteel Camp, held at St. Michael's College in Toronto.
The 16-year-old seemed to fit right in.
"He scored a pretty nice goal against us. Obviously his skill set is unbelievable," Joel Ward of the Washington Capitals, one of the NHL players competing in the camp, told reporters. "It was actually pretty cool to see him. I'd never seen him play before, so I just kind of wanted to see what he was all about. He's a highly touted player and you can see why."
The camp is run by longtime NHL player and heralded trainer Gary Roberts, who has been working with McDavid for more than a year. McDavid took to his Twitter page (@cmcdavid97) Friday to thank Roberts for his guidance over the summer.
Thursday in Toronto, McDavid was skating with James Neal of the Pittsburgh Penguins, David Clarkson of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Wayne Simmonds of the Philadelphia Flyers. In a controlled 4-on-4 scrimmage, he found himself at times playing alongside Cody Hodgson of the Buffalo Sabres and Winnipeg Jets rookie Mark Scheifele, who even at 20 is considerably older than McDavid.
Playing with older, bigger teammates is nothing new to McDavid. The favorite to be the top pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, the Ontario native was granted exceptional-player status by Hockey Canada last year, allowing him to play junior hockey as a 15-year-old.
Despite being the youngest player on his team, he finished second on the Erie Otters in goals (25) and points (66) while tying for the team lead with 41 assists. In April, he led Canada to the gold medal at the IIHF World Under-18 championships, leading the tournament in goals (eight) and points (14) before being named the competition's best forward. He again was his team's youngest player.
McDavid was invited to Canada's upcoming camp for the IIHF World Junior Championship. If he makes the team, he'll join a select group of 16-year-olds to have played for Canada in the tournament: Wayne Gretzky, Eric Lindros, Jason Spezza, Jay Bouwmeester and Sidney Crosby.
Considering McDavid managed to impress NHL competition at the Biosteel Camp, the chance of him making that team doesn’t seem so far off.
"Obviously he's got skill," Simmonds said at the camp. "But you could tell he's got the hands, he's got the speed, he's got the smarts and vision. He's going to be a great player."