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McDavid has teammates' backing as Calder race closes in

by Chris Wescott / Edmonton Oilers

EDMONTON, AB - “I don’t really think about it too much.”

The Calder Memorial Trophy is awarded to the player deemed the most proficient in their first year playing and competing in the NHL. Winning that hardware isn’t on Connor McDavid’s mind, according to the Oilers rookie himself.

“It’s kind of something I haven’t been too worried about. It’s not something I have been focused on,” said McDavid. “I’ve just been trying to play the best hockey I can play within the system and within the team. If I get some votes, obviously, that’d be very nice and a dream come true (to win it) but it’s out of my hands. It’s not in my control really anymore.”

McDavid may not be focused on the Calder conversation, but following a third Rookie of the Month nod, his teammates have shown their support.

“He’s got my vote,” said Taylor Hall, who lives with the rookie in Edmonton.

“I’m partial for sure. You look at his point totals and he’s really up there. I definitely think he’s got to get nominated. There’s been a couple other rookies that maybe haven’t kept the pace they had at the start of the year. I’m not sure how the voters vote, but I think it’s a lot harder to put up points like Connor has at the end of the year. The pace is so much higher than at the start of the year.”

McDavid leads all NHL rookies in points per game this season at 1.07, but unfortunately missed 37 games with a broken clavicle, sitting out most of November and all of December and January.

“It’s unfortunate that he was hurt and anybody that’s going to vote on that award will have to take that into consideration,” said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. “Everybody will have their own parameters on what’s acceptable or unacceptable as far as games played, but I can tell you in the ones he has played he’s been very productive. He’s been a go-to guy for our team and I think those three awards he’s received for each of the months he’s played indicate where he stands amongst his peers.”

McDavid has 45 points (15-30-45) in 42 games this season. He sits fourth in overall rookie scoring, just six points back of Buffalo’s Jack Eichel for second and four points back of third-place Max Domi (Arizona).

“If his production is there, I think why not? I’m not familiar with how that race is going whatsoever, but for him he’s had a great season. It’s been amazing he’s been able to come out of an injury like that and jump right back into it,” said Jordan Eberle, who currently plays on McDavid’s wing.

“It’s not like he came here a project by any means,” Hall quipped of the 2015 first-overall pick. “He was an exceptional player as soon as he stepped on the ice and put on our jersey. In saying that, to be able to do it month after month, game after game, especially when maybe teams weren’t playing their first d-pairing and first line against him at the start of the year, they certainly are now. Every shift. For him to play at this level, it’s been fun to watch. It’s been great to see for the future of our team. And not only that, I think he’s grown off the ice just as far as taking on a bigger role. He’s the youngest guy on our team, but a lot of guys look up to him and they should.”

On Friday, McDavid was named the NHL Rookie of the Month for March, leading all first-year players with 11 assists and 16 points in 15 games.

“I definitely take a lot of pride in it,” said the rookie. “It’s something I’m very happy about, but it’s mostly a credit to my teammates and everyone around me. Everyone has been playing pretty well and when everyone does that personal success goes along with it. Definitely a credit to them.”

McDavid also earned the same distinction for the months of October and February. Each month he’s been healthy this season, he’s topped the competition.

“Everyone knows who the best rookie is,” said Hall. “(Sidney Crosby) didn’t win the Calder his rookie year. It’s kind of a trophy that it’s a great honour, it’s exceptional, but I’m sure Connor is looking forward to bigger and better things.”

The Oilers have just three games left in their 2015-16 campaign. A strong trio of performances and, perhaps, a pile of points could help Connor’s Calder case.

“I definitely think it wouldn’t hurt,” he said. “At the same time, like I said, it’s out of my hands. I think I’ve played some good hockey, but so have a lot of other rookies as well. We’ll see.”

Members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association cast their vote to determine the winner of the Calder Trophy. Who they select for this year’s honour is up for discussion and debate. One thing is for certain, however; McDavid has the votes of his teammates.

“I don’t think I can say much that already hasn’t been said. He’s a dynamic player,” said Eberle. “When he’s on the ice he creates chances, creates offence and it’s scary he’s only 19. He’s only going to get better.”
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