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Jordan Eberle sees Connor McDavid as captain, someday

Oilers could have only alternates this season, veteran forward says

by Ben Zweiman @BZweimanNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

Jordan Eberle said Thursday the Edmonton Oilers could enter this season without a captain, but Connor McDavid will eventually be named.

"I think you see a lot of teams going toward not having a captain," Eberle told Sportsnet 590 The Fan. "I'm a strong believer in guys that lead by example. I've played with Connor and he's an exceptional player and I think he'll be the future of hockey. It doesn't matter if he has [the captaincy], or I have it, you just want a collective group of leaders. I think we do in Edmonton.

"Ultimately, one day, I think he will be our leader."

McDavid, a 19-year-old center, was the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, had 48 points in 45 games as a rookie last season, and finished third in voting for the Calder Trophy.

The Oilers haven't had a captain since defenseman Andrew Ference in the 2014-15 season and had four alternates last season: Eberle, Ference, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall, who was traded to the New Jersey Devils on June 29.

Video: Connor McDavid's evolution as an NHL star

Eberle, 26, received a scare when news broke that Hall had been sent to the Devils for defenseman Adam Larsson.

"I was in Mexico, my sister was getting married," Eberle said.

"I looked at my phone after the ceremony and I had about 90 text messages. Immediately I was thinking I got traded. I didn't really have a reaction, it's a business. More than anything, it's tough to see a friend go. Me and Taylor grew up playing with the Oilers; came in together, lived together, and obviously [we are] very good friends.

"On the other side, we get a very good defenseman, something I know we needed. It's something that will help us in a tough Western Conference."

Hall, a left wing who was the No. 1 pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, led the Oilers with 26 goals and 65 points in 82 games last season. Eberle, a right wing drafted No. 22 in 2008, came up in 2010 and played the past six seasons with Hall in Edmonton.

"I spoke to [Hall] right after [the trade]. More than anything, you feel like you let down the team a little bit," Eberle said. "We haven't made the [Stanley Cup Playoffs] here and the end goal is to do well. You [want to] be one of the guys to turn it around, and when you get the opportunity taken away, I think you're a bit hurt."

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