Erie Otters center Connor McDavid, the projected No. 1 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, was named the winner of the 2014-15 Red Tilson Trophy as the Ontario Hockey League player of the year, as voted by the writers and broadcasters that cover the league.
The announcement was made Tuesday at the Warner Theatre Grand Lobby in Erie, Pa.
"It's really hard to put into words what this means," McDavid said. "To be a part of this group of guys and … I might be the guy standing up there but this is the definition of a team award. Makes it a lot easier when you're playing with the league leading scorer [fellow 2015 draft prospect Dylan Strome] and the league's rookie of the year [Alex DeBrincat]. … It's a very special day to be recognized as the league's MVP. It means the world to me."
The 18-year-old McDavid (6-foot-1, 195 pounds) is the sixth-youngest recipient of the Red Tilson Trophy. The youngest ever to win it was 16-year-old John Tavares of the Oshawa Generals in 2007, followed by four players who won it prior to being selected in the NHL draft: Tyler Seguin of the Plymouth Whalers (2010), Plymouth's David Legwand (1998), Eric Lindros of the Oshawa Generals (1991), and Jack Valiquette of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (1974).
McDavid, who previously was named the OHL Scholastic Player of the Year, tied for fourth in the league with 44 goals and was third with 120 points in 47 regular-season games. He also had a 27-game point streak, the longest in the OHL since Tavares scored in 27 straight 2007-08 season. McDavid is No. 1 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of the top North American skaters eligible for the 2015 NHL Draft, which will be held June 26-27 at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla.
In the OHL playoffs McDavid has continued his torrid scoring pace. He had at least a point in his first 16 games, the longest streak since Taylor Hall of the Windsor Spitfires had a point in 16 straight playoff games in 2010. McDavid has at least one point in 17 of 18 playoff games, and he leads all players with 20 goals and 45 points; he's six points from tying the OHL record for most points in a single playoff season, 51 by Justin Papineau in 1999 with the Belleville Bulls and Jason Dawe in 1993 with the Peterborough Petes.
McDavid had a goal and an assist in a 4-3 victory against Oshawa in Game 3 of the OHL championship series on Monday. Oshawa leads the best-of-7 series 2-1, with Game 4 scheduled Wednesday in Erie.
While the NHL Scouting Combine and the draft are big events on his calendar, McDavid said his total focus now is on winning the OHL title and advancing to the Memorial Cup tournament, which will be held May 21-31 in Quebec City, Quebec.
"The focus for myself is 100 percent on the [OHL] playoffs," McDavid said. "I owe it to my teammates and everyone to bear down and really focus on what's at stake. We have an opportunity to do something significant and I don't want to have any regrets moving forward, either doing something you shouldn't be or not preparing yourself the right way or not focused enough. If any of those things happen everyone is going to have some serious regret and that can't happen. We're looking forward to a chance to really make a run at this."
McDavid has been heralded as the best NHL draft prospect since Sidney Crosby, who was selected by the Pittsburgh Penguins with the first pick of the 2005 draft. Hockey Hall of Fame member Wayne Gretzky told the Edmonton Journal that McDavid is "clearly a franchise player."
"He's as good as I've seen in the last 30 years, the best player to come into the League in the last 30 years, the best to come along since [Mario] Lemieux and [Sidney] Crosby," Gretzky said. "He can definitely change a franchise's fortunes."
The Oilers, who won the NHL Draft Lottery on April 18, will be selecting No. 1 for the fourth time in six years. They haven't made the Stanley Cup Playoffs since reaching the Stanley Cup Final in 2006.
"That draft lottery night was a pretty crazy night," McDavid said. "It was exciting. Was a lot to take in. Edmonton is a great place and has such a rich hockey history. You look at the names that have been through there; it's unbelievable. To maybe be a part of it, if I’m fortunate enough to play there, that would be a tremendous honor."
McDavid is the third Erie player to win the Red Tilson Trophy. Connor Brown, a Toronto Maple Leafs prospect, won it last season after setting an Erie record with 128 points in 68 games. Brad Boyes, currently a forward with the Florida Panthers, won it in 2001 and 2002.
"We all know he's an amazing player, playing in an amazing development league," Erie general manager Sherry Bassin told the OHL website. "The real issue is, I want the world to know that he's an amazing person. It's his character as a person, it's his inner drive to be the best he can. That combination with his ability makes him very worthy of this award. It's a special award for a special person."