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BLOG: Neal describes off-season with McDavid

"What I've seen every day of the hours he puts in, how early and late he's at the gym is pretty impressive," said James Neal of training with Connor McDavid over the summer

by Paul Gazzola /

EDMONTON, AB - James Neal and Connor McDavid aren't exactly strangers.

The two represented Team Pacific Division at the 2018 NHL All-Star Game and have trained together, putting in work this off-season at Gary Roberts High Performance Training.

After Wednesday's informal skate, the forward was asked about his time with the Oilers Captain over the summer.

"I've trained with him since he was in the OHL with Erie (Otters) before he was even drafted to Edmonton," Neal, who is looking to bounce back after a seven-goal, 19-point campaign last year, started.

"He's just a great kid with a great personality and he's so competitive."

Neal got to witness McDavid's regimen during the summer months and was fascinated by his dedication. The 22-year-old suffered a torn PCL in the final game of the 2018-19 season, causing him to rehab for the majority of the off-season.

"Obviously ending with the injury last year he's had a tough summer, but the way he's worked and what I've seen every day with the hours he puts in, how early and late he's at the gym is pretty impressive," Neal added. 

Video: RAW | Neal 09.04.19

"I got to spend a lot of time with him and I've really enjoyed that."

Not only did Neal get a glimpse of McDavid's training and recovery process, but he also saw the Newmarket, ON, product's drive.

"When you're one of the best players in the world, you want to win a Stanley Cup. I know that's at the top of his list," said the 11-year NHL veteran.

And while Neal was able to offer his praise for his captain's relentless pursuit for success, he also indicated how that can benefit himself this upcoming season.

"Working with Connor and a lot of other guys during the summer has given me a chance to get back to where I need to be and where I want to be," Neal, a 10-time 20-goal scorer, said. 

"I know the player I can be and I've proven that over the years. I'll get back to where I know I can be this year."

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