ST. CATHARINES, Ont. - Connor McDavid keeps reliving the final seconds of winning world junior gold for Canada. Lawson Crouse remembers it like it was yesterday.
More than two weeks after ending the nation's gold-medal drought at the world junior championship, McDavid and Crouse are still glowing about it.
"You say you want to move on and stuff like that. You got to," McDavid said Tuesday before practice for the CHL Top Prospects game. "But it's hard to say you don't miss it. I miss it so much. I think it was two weeks (Monday) or whatever. I was talking with some of the guys yesterday and I miss it a lot. I miss that feeling and that energy and that buzz."
The buzz of Air Canada Centre, loud with almost every fan wearing red-and-white, was intoxicating. It has taken time for McDavid to move past that night and the biggest accomplishment of his hockey-playing life.
"It's pretty common to have a little bit of a letdown after world juniors," McDavid said. "Your game is so ramped up and everything is riding on a single play and everything like that. Then you come back to the OHL, which is still great hockey and all that, but it's not the world juniors."
A letdown by McDavid's definition doesn't seem to be so bad. The projected No. 1 pick in June's NHL draft had at least a point per game since going back to the Erie Otters, a total of five goals and four assists in five games.
McDavid, who has 60 points in 23 games, called four points in two games an "all right weekend."
Crouse, who's also expected to be a top-10 pick, also had some difficulty mentally adjusting when he returned to the OHL's Kingston Frontenacs.
"I went back and I tried to do too much, and I sat down with Coach (Paul MacFarland) and I told him that," Crouse said. "He just said, 'Well, just do the things that got you there.' After two games I kind of got back to my normal self."
Crouse has four goals and three assists in six games. Don't call it a letdown.
"It's not necessarily a letdown, but it's a different style," he said. "You're playing with the top guys and then you go back and you kind of have to adapt to getting back to what got you there and doing the things well."
McDavid and Crouse were at their best at the world juniors, as Canada went undefeated to win gold. Crouse said he learned from each teammate and opponent to improve his game.
"Just the level of play and how much you have to execute things to a tee," Crouse said. "You have to compete every shift. I feel like I do that well. Obviously I just try to build off that game in and game out."
McDavid picked up a big lesson, too, about what pressure situations are like.
"Just that experience of playing in the big games and winning and all that," McDavid said. "To have that experience under my belt and some of those big-game moments and stuff like that, it's good to take back with you."
With 11 points in seven games, McDavid tied for the tournament lead in scoring. A few months ago he said it was up to this world junior team to restore the belief of Canadian hockey fans, but in the aftermath of doing that he didn't feel a weight come off his shoulders.
"People asked me if it was relief that I was feeling, but it was nothing but joy," McDavid said. "It's not thinking, 'Oh we finally did it,' or whatever. It's just you're so happy to finally have a dream come true and live that with those 22 guys and the staff and all that."
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