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Oilers' McDavid expecting 'special' preseason debut

by Derek Van Diest

EDMONTON -- Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid will make his preseason debut at Rexall Place in a split-squad game against the Calgary Flames on Monday.

The Oilers and Flames are playing two games simultaneously in Edmonton and Calgary to begin their preseason.

McDavid will center the Oilers' top line between Taylor Hall and Teddy Purcell in the game in Edmonton.

"I'm excited. Obviously, anytime you get a chance to do something like this, it's pretty special," McDavid said. "It's going to be fun, and hopefully the building is excited."

McDavid, the No. 1 selection in the 2015 NHL Draft, played two rookie camp games and participated in two scrimmages at the Oilers' main training camp thus far.

He is looking forward to playing against NHL-caliber opposition.

"I don't know if nervous is the right way to say it, I think it's more anxious and excited," McDavid said. "Those are the two words that come to mind, I'm just looking forward to it. I think it's going to be a challenge, that's just how it is, it's the next level. It's going to take some getting used to, but I'm confident in my abilities and I believe in myself."

McDavid has been skating with Hall and Purcell from the start of Edmonton's main training camp, which began Friday. The line is expected to remain together through the duration of the preseason.

"I think it's been pretty good so far, we've played a couple of good scrimmages," McDavid said. "It's obviously not the same as a real game, but we're feeling more and more comfortable as a line, and hopefully that continues to grow."

McDavid believes communication is key to the success of the line. He has not hesitated to speak up among his two veteran wings when the occasion calls for it.

"We've never played together, the three of us, so whenever something comes up it's important that we discuss it and we give advice either way," McDavid said. "I think there has to be that respect between the three of us to say what we feel."

Expectations are high for McDavid going into the season. The 18-year-old is considered a generational talent and is the most anticipated player to enter the League since Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby 10 years ago.

Oilers coach Todd McLellan said it is important to temper expectations and allow McDavid to continue the process of his development.

"He has dealt with the attention and the title that has been put on him fairly well to this point," McLellan said. "It is the National Hockey League and things change a little bit, but just knowing the individual person, I think he's just going to come and play and give us what he can give us. I don't think we have to increase or diminish expectations internally. Externally, with the media and the fans, we have to understand that he's going to have some nights where he doesn't look real good, but he's also going to have some real good nights.

"We have to think back to [Jonathan] Toews, [Patrick] Kane, [Alex] Ovechkin and Sidney coming into the League; those were real talented players, but they had some tough nights as young players as well."

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