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GENE'S BLOG: Eriely Familiar

In his latest blog, Gene Principe talks about the connection Connor McDavid has with his old junior town in every stop along this three-game road trip

by Gene Principe / Special to EdmontonOilers.com

It must feel like old home week for Connor McDavid even though he's not anywhere near Toronto or his hometown of Newmarket. Instead, he and the Edmonton Oilers are weaving their way through a tough road trip that started out Thursday night with a thriller. A 2-1 OT win over Chicago. The opener of a tough three-game road trip that takes the team to Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Along the way, every stop has a connection through players or proximity to where Connor played his junior hockey. 

By now, you know it's Erie and for three seasons McDavid was an Otter. During that time, he played on a line with Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome. DeBrincat played against his old teammate and linemate for the first time Thursday night.

"I was just happy to make the team," said the Hawks winger. "And then, to end up on Connor's line, I felt incredibly lucky."

The two of them, along with Strome, piled up the production. As a line, they totaled a whopping 353 points during the 2014-15 season. McDavid 120 points (in 47 games), Strome 129 points and DeBrincat 104 pts. McDavid went number one in the draft, Strome number three and a year later, DeBrincat was a second-round pick by Chicago.

"I knew when I got to Erie," said McDavid's former linemate. "That having Connor on the team meant a lot of NHL scouts would be at our games and it would help open the door for me."

A door McDavid was happy to help open for a player with potential.

"I'm happy for him. He deserves everything he's gotten after coming out of high school to play junior. Not many people knew about him, but the hockey world knows about him now." 

From the successful stop in Chicago, the team moves to its next stop that once again has an Otter connection.

Video: EDM@CHI: McDavid sends unreal pass to Maroon's tape

Philadelphia hired Kris Knoblauch as an assistant coach. Knoblauch helped get Erie to the MasterCard Memorial Cup this past season but what McDavid remembers is when he started his junior career.

"It was my first season," explained the Oilers centreman. "And Kris came in and he was great. He came in and changed the culture of the team. The biggest thing is he allowed players to be free and play the way they wanted to play."

Not a bad idea by the former U of A Golden Bear with the talent the Otters were able to ice.

"We had the type of guys who could play offensive. Guys like Strome, DeBrincat and Connor Brown," said McDavid who didn't but could have easily mentioned himself among Erie's pool of players. 

The last stop is the closest to his junior hockey home. From Erie to Pittsburgh, the distance is just over 200 kilometers. Take I-79 south and in just over 2 hours you've made the drive from a junior hockey power to an NHL one. McDavid has made the journey before and has a famous photo of him alongside Mario Lemieux and Sidney Crosby. He is entrenched in the NHL world and as an Edmonton Oiler but his base was built in the OHL.

"That's what junior is all about," said the Oiler. "It's to help you get to the next level. It's almost like you use each other and that's whole idea behind it."

An important trip for Edmonton and one that will look Eriely familiar to the captain.

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