Edmonton Oilers Captain Connor McDavid is in Toronto, and while he has his sights set on the upcoming 2017-18 season, the third-year player can reflect on the steps his team took in their most recent campaign.
The Oilers broke their playoff drought, earning a spot in the post-season for the first time since 2006. They were largely led by their youthful core, including McDavid - the NHL's leading scorer. As such a young team, the experience gained in their first-round victory over San Jose and second-round loss to Anaheim should prove useful heading into the new season.
"I think after going through the playoffs, you definitely get a sense for how important it is to go through it at least once before you win," said McDavid, speaking to reporters in Toronto.
"I think if you look at most teams that have won, they lost the previous year or a few years before. You have to get that experience. That might be a different answer than what we were saying going into the playoffs, but after going through it once I think you definitely need that experience just to understand how big the games are and how intense they are."
Edmonton took Anaheim to Game 7, and although they couldn't close that series out they proved to the League that they were ready for the big stage. Media prognosticators and Vegas betters have the Oil right in the thick of Cup contention. But McDavid shakes those predictions off.
"It's exciting, but it really doesn't mean anything," said McDavid. "It's up to us to figure out how good we're going to be and if we're willing to put in all the work and I think everyone is having a good summer and everyone is anxious to get back."
Edmonton largely looked to within for off-season upgrades this summer. President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Peter Chiarell took a "sign his own" approach, inking blueline contributors Kris Russell and Eric Gryba to extensions. Those moves were in addition to the mammoth signings of McDavid and Leon draisaitl to eight-year deals. Ryan Strome was the biggest addition coming from outside the organization - acquired in a trade with the New York Islanders.
With much of last year's roster intact, and with post-season experience under their belts, Edmonton is certainly poised to compete. Their approach, however, does not change.
"I think everyone has the same mindset," said McDavid. "Last year we were able to find a little success, but it shouldn't change anything. Every year is a new year. You look at the turnover every year and teams that made the playoffs last year aren't guaranteed to make the playoffs the next year so it's always turning over and you have to establish yourself early."
Edmonton opens the 2017 pre-season on September 18, with a split-squad game against the Calgary Flames.