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Otters general manager copes with losing McDavid

by Mike G. Morreale

Erie Otters general manager Sherry Bassin knows his team will have a different look and feel without the services of captain Connor McDavid.

The hockey prodigy from Newmarket, Ontario, projected by many to be the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, fractured the fifth metacarpal bone in his right hand against the Mississauga Steelheads in a fight on Nov. 11 and is expected to be sidelined 5-6 weeks.

"What can you do now after losing a superstar?" Bassin asked on the morning after receiving the news of the report from the hand specialist that evaluated McDavid on Wednesday in Ontario.

"Connor was our undisputed leader, a world class player who consumed 25 minutes a game," he continued. "You can't fill his shoes and you can't replace his minutes because that's not possible so it comes down to us all stepping up as a group until he returns in a couple of months."

McDavid, who had scored a point in all but one game for Erie (16-1-1) this season, has 16 goals and 51 points in 18 games. He has 69 goals and 216 points in 137 career OHL games spanning three seasons.

Bassin said he spoke to McDavid after hearing the results. The 17-year-old was very upset.

"You've got to understand that this guy is so emotionally committed to win every game," Bassin said. "He has no ego, so for this to happen is devastating to him because he wants to play every day. When you're that talented and competitive, and are then told you need to sit and watch a few weeks, it's going to affect you emotionally."

With such world-class talent, why would McDavid even consider dropping the gloves to fight an opponent at any point?

"People say hockey is a contact sport, but it's not. It's a collision sport," Bassin said. "So by the nature of the interaction, you're going to react sometimes and I'm sure he regrets it right now. But, heck, you and I have been in situations where we sometimes overreact to things. This was an action and reaction.

"People don't come to Erie hockey games to watch fights, they come to watch Connor McDavid."

Though the injury to McDavid won't affect his draft status, it could throw a monkey wrench into his plans of representing Canada at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship in Montreal and Toronto beginning Dec. 26. Select camp for the Canadian National Junior Team will likely begin the second week in December.

McDavid had one goal and four points in seven games for Canada at the 2014 WJC. He was the sixth 16-year-old to play for Canada at the WJC, joining Sidney Crosby, Eric Lindros, Jason Spezza, Jay Bouwmeester and Wayne Gretzky.

"I'm fully convinced that he'll be back in time for the World Junior tournament," Bassin said. "He has that will to prepare that all superstar athletes understand. He didn't come in on some flying carpet with all this ability. He worked his tail off to get to this level and he'll continue to do that."

In March 2012 McDavid was granted exceptional player status by Hockey Canada to be eligible for the 2012 OHL draft as a 15-year-old. Less than a month later Erie made him the first pick of the draft and he went on to win the OHL Rookie of the Year award in 2012-13. Last season the 6-foot-1, 195-pound left-shot center was fourth in the OHL in scoring with 99 points (28 goals, 71 assists) in 56 regular-season games.

"McDavid is by far one of the best players to ever play in our league," said Bassin, who won the 1993 Memorial Cup as general manager of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. "I really believe that if he played in the NHL today he'd get 60-to-70 points."

Bassin also won two gold medals as assistant coach and GM of the Canadian World Junior Team in 1982 and 1985 IIHF World Junior Championship.

"[Mario] Lemieux and [Steve] Yzerman played for me when I was helping Canada at the World Juniors and we were lucky to win some medals," Bassin said. "I've been around a lot of great players and Connor is in that mix of the great players.

"I've had a lot of players with ability who I wish had more character, and I've had players with a lot of character who I wish had more ability. Put them together and you get a star and that's what McDavid is."


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