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McDavid fits right in as Oilers begin camp

by Derek Van Diest

EDMONTON -- Connor McDavid took the next step in his NHL education Friday during the first day of on-ice sessions at Edmonton Oilers' training camp.

McDavid, the first player taken in the 2015 NHL Draft, centered a line with left wing Taylor Hall and right wing Teddy Purcell in an up-tempo and information-filled session conducted by new coach Todd McLellan. He participated in the Oilers' rookie camp prior to attending the main camp. He played two games, scoring a goal and contributing four assists, but this was his first time skating with potential linemates.

“It was fun, it's always fun to get out there and skate with new guys and get a feel for everything that’s going on," McDavid said. "The whole coaching staff is doing a great job of teaching us and going slow and being patient with us. You saw a number of times [McLellan] stopped [a drill] and walked us through it. That's going to happen and it's the only way we're going to learn. It was a great day and I’m trying to learn a lot really quick here, but that's the way it goes."

McDavid is one of 59 players attending training camp and took part in two of the five on-ice sessions at the Leduc Recreation Centre. It was the first time he skated formally with his new team under the direction of McLellan.

"It's very intense, that's the way it has to be," McDavid said. "It has to be very intense and very attentive to detail, high energy and high paced, that's all stuff that needs to carry over."

Hall, the first player chosen in the 2010 draft, was impressed with what he saw.

"He's a special player, I think you see that any time he steps on the ice," Hall said. "But there is a long way to go, there is a lot of work to be done, and I think for him, it's better that we take it one day at a time and take that first game in, then that second exhibition game and then go from there."

Skating with the veterans, McDavid absorbed plenty of information as McLellan attempted to set a solid foundation for his new team.

McLellan, who was hired by the Oilers after spending the past seven seasons with the San Jose Sharks, didn't give all his attention to McDavid.

"It's not just Connor, we have other 18-year-olds here and everybody is new to the coach and general manager [Peter Chiarelli]," McLellan said. "We have to give them enough information to peak their interest, enough information that they understand and get it. Connor is a smart player and he'll pick it up. Often the biggest confusion factor is the terminology that coaches use."

Hall, who played for the McLellan-coached Canada team that won the gold medal at the 2015 IIHF World Hockey Championship, was impressed with his new linemate's ability to stay up to speed.

"There was a lot of information on the first day, but he seemed to take it in very well," Hall said. "That's a good thing for a hockey player and an 18-year-old, that it doesn't seem to frazzle him when there's lots going on. The quicker that he can process that stuff and can get playing, it's going to be good for him."

McDavid, Hall and Purcell are expected to play together through the on-ice sessions this weekend and into the preseason. The Oilers open their preseason schedule Monday with simultaneous split-squad games against the Calgary Flames, at the Scotiabank Saddledome and Rexall Place. They host the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday.

Purcell is familiar with playing with elite talent. He spent time on a line with Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis while playing with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

"Connor is such a special player. There are not a lot guys that can skate, think and have good hands," Purcell said. "There are not a lot of guys in the world that can do that."

Purcell is looking forward to playing with Hall and McDavid in the preseason and is willing to support the 18-year-old in any way he can.

"It's going to be hard for him, it's going to be a lot different than junior, especially playing defense and the travel and the demands and the tough centers in the [Western Conference]. But if anyone is going to be ready for it, he will," Purcell said. "He's a determined guy, but it's an adjustment for any 18-year-old. it's not going to be easy; there are not going to be many nights off. We start [the regular season] in St. Louis, we have Nashville, Dallas and then back against St. Louis, so it's, 'welcome to the NHL' right away."

McDavid appeared to fit right in with his new linemates.

"I'm very comfortable around both those guys," he said. "I've gotten to know them very well, and I’m comfortable with them. That's not to say I'm going to be barking orders or anything like that, but I think it's more of having that respect between the three of us and being able to share thoughts and share ideas and we were already kind of doing that today. I guess it starts from Day 1."

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