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Connor McDavid reaches new level with Oilers

Edmonton captain leads League in points 20 games into second season

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / Staff Writer

EDMONTON -- A personal dry spell, a team slump and plenty of attention from opponents have not hindered Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid.

After getting two assists in a 5-0 victory against the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday, McDavid, 19, has risen again to the top of the NHL scoring race with 24 points (eight goals, 16 assists). The Oilers (10-8-1) were back on top of the Pacific Division as well.

McDavid went 10 games without a goal between Oct. 30 and Nov. 17, but he had seven assists in that span. He broke out with a hat trick Saturday in a 5-2 win against the Dallas Stars, helping the Oilers end a five-game losing streak.

"Like I've said earlier, it's a streaky league," McDavid said Tuesday. "Sometimes you're getting all the chances and you're setting up plays and they don't seem to go in. Then at other times, they do. It's a weird league like that sometimes, but it's a good thing that they are going in now."

McDavid was hot to start the season and was the NHL scoring leader with six points in the first two games. His 24 points are 10 more than teammates Jordan Eberle and Leon Draisaitl.

"He's used to scoring a lot and we expect him to score a lot," Oilers coach Todd McLellan said. "It's his ability to create chances and opportunities for others that's equally as important as him scoring the goal. He's been able to do that, even through that dry spell.

"I think a lot of the top guys tend to have somebody riding shotgun with them as far as the scoring race goes. There are pairs that tend to get it done. I think Jordan can be that. I think [Milan Lucic] can be that. I think [Patrick] Maroon can be that over time. It just hasn't gone in for some of them right now. It eventually will."

Video: EDM@VAN: McDavid shows off speed, finishes five-hole

McDavid, who will try to build on his points total when the Oilers begin a two-game road trip Wednesday at the Colorado Avalanche (10 p.m. ET; ALT2, SNW, NHL.TV), is a different type of player than the one who broke into the League last season, McLellan said.

"He's a better defensive player now," McLellan said. "He's just more confident. When he first came here last year, it was to fit in… it's the permission thing. He's taken another level with permission and he's been given that by his teammates and the organization: 'You're the guy.'"

McDavid said Tuesday he expected it would take him some time to learn to be an effective NHL player and to find a comfort zone.

"Definitely, I've learned a lot, each and every day," he said. "I definitely feel like I'm a smarter player than when I first entered the League.

"I think it's the defensive side of it, like not blowing through the [defensive] zone. I think when I first came into the League, I was blowing the zone all the time, just kind of expecting pucks to get out. You learn very quickly that you can't be doing that."

Eberle said McDavid's biggest impact has been with his skating.

"His speed is unmatched in the League," Eberle said. "I don't know how he does it. They should figure it out and teach kids how to do it. He's a rush player. He creates everything off the rush and his speed. And defensively, you can't really gap up and challenge it."

The decision to make McDavid the Oilers captain this season has been without issue.

Video: EDM@DAL: McDavid notches first NHL hat trick

"I think he's doing a tremendous job," McLellan said. "The team is winning more than it's losing. It's my opinion that it's growing and it has made strides. It's been through some ups and downs, which he's had to experience as the captain. I just look at the way he carries himself off the ice and we're happy with that, as well as the support group that he has. His play on the ice has been tremendous.

"I would say that's a pretty good passing grade for a very young captain."

Eberle said that's the case because McDavid hasn't changed his personality.

"That's a good thing," Eberle said. "He's a humble kid. I think he's probably a little more confident and he knows what to expect because he's played a year in the League now.

"He's obviously had a lot of pressure on him, but you don't notice it at all. He handles it well. Look at that Dallas game. When we needed a win, he stepped up.

"I don't think anyone expected him to be in the locker room yelling at guys. Nothing like that. He hasn't been. For Connor, it's a lead-by-example mentality and he's got that talent and speed that can change a game and the outcome pretty quick. There's not many guys in the League that can do that."

Being the Oilers captain has been mostly business as usual, McDavid said.

"I keep saying that lot of guys in this room could wear it," McDavid said. "That makes it very easy to be the captain of a team like this where you have so many leaders in the room.

"There are certain things you can say off the ice, but I think it's mostly on the ice. There are certain situations where you feel like the team may need a big play, something like that, where you feel like it's your responsibility to step up and you do that, but I definitely do that more on the ice than off."

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