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McDavid skates at Oilers' home arena for first time

by Derek Van Diest

EDMONTON -- Connor McDavid stepped onto the ice at Rexall Place for the first time Wednesday, taking part in opening day of Edmonton Oilers development camp.

The No. 1 pick at the 2015 NHL Draft went through the fitness portion of the six-day camp before he participated in a skating session.

"Today was a lot of fun," McDavid said. "The fitness test wasn't a whole lot of fun, but it was cool to throw on the Oilers gear, the gear that I want to play the rest of my life in. It was very special put it on and to step onto Rexall with all that history. It was a lot of fun."

Oilers skating coach David Pelletier, who won a gold medal in figure skating at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, put McDavid and the rest of the Oilers prospects through a number of drills.

"That circle stuff, with the one foot and all the edge work, I thought it was really good," McDavid said. "Skating is so important in today's game, and you always have to be working on it, so it was good to get a chance to do that."

The development camp will resume Thursday with a full on-ice practice. It ends Monday with a 4-on-4 tournament.

After the skating session, Oilers defense prospect Darnell Nurse named McDavid the best player of the practice. The two were opponents in the Ontario Hockey League last season.

"It was all in good fun; me and Nurse are good buddies, and you could kind of see it coming when they said they were doing that," McDavid said. "It was a lot of fun, and that's what it's all about, being close to the guys like that. It was fun."

McDavid had 44 goals and 76 assists in 47 games with the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League last season. He also helped host Canada win the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship.

The Oilers won the right to select McDavid first in the draft at the NHL Draft Lottery on April 18. It was the fourth time in six years Edmonton won the No. 1 pick.

Going into the 2015-2016 season, expectations are high on McDavid and the Oilers, who will attempt to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2006.

"It's still early; it's development camp. It's going to take a little while for all of it to sink in," McDavid said. "It still feels surreal. I'm just trying to picture being part of an NHL organization, let alone the Edmonton Oilers with such a storied background. It's still pretty surreal and it's taking a little bit to sink it. But it's exciting to say that."

Along with getting to know his new team, McDavid is becoming accustomed to his new city. Prior to being selected by the Oilers, the Richmond Hill, Ontario, product made a brief visit to Edmonton.

"I came for a visit a couple of weeks ago," McDavid said. "I've only been here for a little bit now, but it's a great city. It seems very nice, and I'm really going to enjoy it."

There has not been much interaction between McDavid and Oilers fans, but he expects that to change once he settles in the city.

"Just walking to the airport, it was pretty cool to see a couple of fans, but for the most part, I've kind of been secluded and I haven't seen anyone." McDavid said. "Oilers fans are so passionate, they are some of the best in the NHL and in the world. To have a fan base like that behind such a great organization, you know something special is bound to happen."

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