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Crosby, Stamkos feel Oilers' McDavid is 'real deal'

by Dan Rosen

TORONTO -- Sidney Crosby and Steven Stamkos are two members of a small group of elite players in the NHL who have even one iota of a clue of what Connor McDavid has already gone through in the buildup to his rookie season and what he still will go through as expectations on the Edmonton Oilers' 18-year-old center soar.

Crosby went through it 10 years ago, before and after he was selected first in the 2005 NHL Draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins. Stamkos went through it three years later, also before and after he was selected with the No. 1 pick in the 2008 draft by the Tampa Bay Lightning.

From what Crosby and Stamkos have seen and heard, the Oilers and their fans shouldn't have to worry about McDavid handling the expectations and hype that will follow him all season the way it once followed them in their teenage years.

"He's definitely way ahead of where I was at 18," Stamkos said Tuesday during the NHL's annual Player Media Tour. "He's a special talent, and anyone who asks me about him, I just tell them that he's the real deal."

Stamkos got an up-close look at McDavid all summer because they each train at the same gym with former NHL player Gary Roberts. The Lightning captain said he hasn't ever seen an 18-year-old quite like McDavid.

"It's so hard because obviously he's never played a game yet, but just from being on the ice with him, he's a special talent," Stamkos said. "I mean, you can see why he had the exceptional status coming into the OHL and to see the hype surrounding him, I mean, it's real."

Stamkos came away most impressed with McDavid's skating.

"I haven't really seen someone skate like that, so effortless," he said. "I've skated with Sid [Crosby] in practice in a camp before the lockout and now I've skated with Connor, and when those guys are on the ice, you just find yourself always watching them. That's the case with Connor. It's special. I don't want to put so much pressure on the kid by saying those things, but dealt with it his whole life, so no matter what anybody says, he's going to be fine."

Crosby, whose hype coming into the NHL may finally have met its match with McDavid, said his lone meeting with the Oilers center this summer left a lasting impression on him.

"He's pretty level-headed, I think he's got things figured out pretty early on," Crosby said. "I understand that the expectations are high, but he looks like a guy who is going to be able to deliver on them."

Crosby said McDavid's most difficult challenge this season will be dealing with the constant expectations. He went through that as a rookie in 2005-06, when he had 102 points and was second in the Calder Trophy voting to Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin.

"You go city to city, it's probably not a typical situation where you're an 18-year-old and you're able to take everything in without having those expectations of everyone around you," Crosby said. "That being said, though, I think he has some good people around him in the organization and players that have played in the League long enough but they're not guys who are that much older who can't relate to things he'll go through. There really is a good balance of everything there for him."

Crosby said the hype around McDavid has made him think about what he went through 10 years ago.

"I think about what was important to me at that age and whether it was on ice, what I needed to do there, or the people around me that helped me make the adjustment a lot easier," Crosby said. "There are a lot of things that go into it. I think when you're in it you don't necessarily realize it, and that's where the responsibility of the people around you is so important. When you talk about adjusting and expectations and those things, that's why your surroundings have such a big impact on how you do on the ice."

Crosby clearly doesn't think McDavid is going to have any problems adjusting and dealing with the expectations. He's not alone.

"He's a special player," Crosby said.


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