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McDavid has two assists in Oilers win against Flames

by Derek Van Diest

EDMONTON -- Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid continues to impress in the early stages of his NHL career.

McDavid had two assists and was named First Star in his NHL preseason debut Monday against the Calgary Flames at Rexall Place.

The 18-year-old rookie set up Leon Draisaitl's game-tying goal and assisted on Nail Yakupov's empty-net goal in a 4-2 win against the Flames in a split-squad game.

"There was obviously nerves and a lot of excitement going into the game, and it takes a little bit to settle down," McDavid said. "I thought I was a little nervous in the first period and wasn't patient with the puck and wasn't playing my game. I guess that's to be expected, there was so much hype about playing your first NHL game -- although it's not really -- it's still kind of your first taste."

McDavid played in two Oilers rookie games before facing NHL-caliber opposition for the first time Monday.

"It's exciting, even though it's not your first game, it's still similar," McDavid said. "I remember my first OHL game, I think that's the most nervous I've ever been for a game. It wasn't quite on that level, but it was certainly right there. It was an exciting night."

McDavid, the No. 1 pick at the 2015 NHL Draft, started the game on a line with wings Taylor Hall and Teddy Purcell. McDavid played 20:59, the most ice time among Oilers forwards. Only defenseman Andrej Sekera (25:11) had more ice time for Edmonton.

"I thought he looked dangerous when he had the puck and I thought he played well on both sides of it," Oilers coach Todd McLellan said of McDavid. "He had a couple of good scoring chances, and we got what we expected for Day One."

McDavid's best scoring chance came in the second period on a set-up in front, but his shot heading toward the top corner of the net was knocked away by Flames goaltender Karri Ramo.

In the third period, with the Oilers trailing 2-1, McDavid feathered a pass to Draisaitl in front while on the power play. Draisaitl was able to snap the puck past Flames goaltender Mason McDonald, who replaced Ramo to start the period.

Anton Lander then scored the go-ahead goal with the Oilers shorthanded, beating McDonald over the shoulder with a shot off the right wing.

"I think Connor played a good game," Lander said. "Even if he played a rookie game in Penticton [Young Stars Classic], this was still his first game here in Edmonton. You just have to give him time. He's a great player, with great speed, and he played well out there tonight. I'm excited to follow him and see what he does here this year."

McDavid showcased his speed throughout the game and displayed a strong defensive instinct. He was utilized on the power play and penalty kill.

"We all focus on his offense, but he's responsible [defensively]," McLellan said. "I felt good about his penalty-killing. I didn't know I was going to use him, but as the night went on, we used him and he was good positionally. When you have legs like that, you can recover from errors a lot quicker, and he has the ability to do that. But he's not flying all over the place in the D zone, he stops, he slows down, he understands he can get back to full speed quickly. He was very responsible defensively tonight. We'll see where it goes from there."

McDavid was pleased with his performance against the Flames.

"I thought I was OK; I did some good stuff and have some stuff to improve on," McDavid said. "I think the main thing is the resiliency the team showed late in the game to be able to battle back like that."

The Oilers host the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday in their next preseason game.

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