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Erie's McDavid sets sights on OHL championship

by Mike G. Morreale /

What is the formula to stopping Erie Otters captain Connor McDavid in the Ontario Hockey League playoffs?

Oshawa Generals coach D.J. Smith hopes to find that out beginning Friday when the Generals play the Otters in Game 1 of the Ontario Hockey League best-of-7 championship series in Oshawa.

McDavid, No. 1 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of the top North American skaters eligible for the 2015 NHL Draft, had eight goals and 19 points in a six-game series victory against the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the conference final last week. He leads all players in the Canadian Hockey League playoffs with 19 goals and 42 points and is averaging 2.80 points per game in 15 postseason games. McDavid has at least one point in all 15 playoff games, the longest streak in the OHL since Taylor Hall had points in 16 straight games for the Windsor Spitfires in the 2010 playoffs.

That 2010 Windsor team with Hall, who went on to be taken by the Edmonton Oilers with the first pick of the 2010 NHL Draft, had Smith as an associate coach.

"I think Connor is a different player than Taylor," Smith said. "At the end of the day there's a reason why you're the No. 1 player in the world. Your compete level is so much higher than everyone else's and that's what it comes down to; you have to be able to match that compete in order to even think about shutting a player like that down."

The Generals advanced to the championship series after winning their first Bobby Orr Trophy as OHL Eastern Conference champions. The Otters won the Wayne Gretzky Trophy as OHL Western Conference champions for the second time in franchise history.

"I don't think I'm any smarter than anyone else and certainly it comes down to the five guys on the ice who need to commit to [stopping McDavid]," Smith said. "If those five guys aren't committed than it'll be a lot more difficult. He's good on the power play, probably the best in the country, so we need to stay out of the box.

"If you're not willing to compete at an outrageous level you're going to have a tough time with a guy like Connor or Taylor Hall or any of the elite players in the world."

The Generals won their two regular-season games against the Otters but McDavid missed each because of a hand injury sustained in November. He doesn't see his absence in the regular season having any effect on the playoff games.

"I don't think it really matters," McDavid said. "The postseason is a different game compared to the regular season. It wouldn't have really mattered if I played in those two games. They know what to expect and I know they've probably watched video. We've done the same. So it's two teams that will be pretty familiar with each other going into the series. I don't think there will be any surprises."

Smith said he doesn't expect many changes to be made by either team at the start of the series.

"You have to keep your own identity; we're going to forecheck, we're going to hit, we're going to grind and that's just the way we play," Smith said. "We expect a long series. And at the end of the day we have to make sure we're cracking and finishing every single check because that's who we are."

The winner of the series advances to the Memorial Cup, which will be played May 21-31 in Quebec City, Quebec.

Generals defenseman and captain Josh Brown said he's looking forward to the challenge of playing against McDavid. Brown, selected in the sixth round (No. 152) by the Florida Panthers in the 2013 draft, signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Panthers on April 9.

"You always want to put yourself up against the best players and the hardest challenges. And for us this will be pretty big," Brown said. "I don't think I've played against anyone with that skill set. I don't think nervous is the word, but I have to go back to the drawing board and think about how I will try to shut him down. But I'm pretty excited for the opportunity."


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