A hockey wunderkind who outpaces players at least two years his senior and wears the number of his birth year on the back of his jersey.
Meet Connor McDavid, a 16-year-old hockey prodigy who some scouts already project to be the first-overall pick of the 2015 NHL Draft. McDavid was welcomed to CONSOL Energy Center to watch and meet his idol Sidney Crosby and the Penguins take on the New Jersey Devils Sunday night.
McDavid, who was influenced to wear the No. 97 to represent his birth year by Crosby wearing the No. 87, not only watched the game in person, he sat alongside one of the most decorated NHL superstars in league history, Penguins owner Mario Lemieux.
“It’s crazy, we knew there was going to be a little tour involved, but to watch the game with Mario Lemieux is just unbelievable,” McDavid said. “Any time you can just spend with Mario Lemieux is fun, so I’m just trying to take what I can off of him.”
McDavid, who never met Crosby before Sunday, has said that Crosby is his favorite hockey player and is the reason he is a Penguins fan. In October, Crosby said McDavid reminded him of himself at that age, which was high praise coming from the current face of the NHL.
“He’s my idol, so for him to say something like that is a tremendous honor,” McDavid said.
Those comparisons are not unwarranted. McDavid is just the third player to be granted exceptional player status, following John Tavares in 2005 and Aaron Ekblad in 2011, allowing him to enter the Ontario Hockey League as a 15-year-old. In his first season with the OHL’s Erie Otters, McDavid has produced more than a point per game, earning 52 points (22G-30A) in 49 games.
The Newmarket, Ontario native will be eligible to enter the NHL Draft in two years and said he thinks he needs to improve before he plays at the highest level, but is confident he will be prepared when that time comes.
“It’s a little bit tough right now. It’s still so many years away and there’s still some work to be done,” McDavid said. “I thought I had a pretty good start (in Erie). Hopefully, this pushes me into next year.”
Last year with the Toronto Marlboros, McDavid was named the Greater Toronto Hockey League Player of the Year, racking up a league-high 209 points (79G-130A), which was coincidentally 87 points ahead of second place.
And McDavid had a chance to watch his idol and favorite team in their packed arena.
“It’s a completely different story when you come to watch a game,” McDavid said. “You can get a sense of the game when you watch it on TV, but once you’re here you just get the sense of how fast it is and the atmosphere in the building. It’s just incredible.”