Connor McDavid Is Underappreciated


Connor McDavid is the best player in the NHL, but does he get the respect he deserves? (Courtesy of Flickr)

Yeah, that’s right. The man who is undeniably the world’s best hockey player is underappreciated. We, as hockey fans, still don’t fully realize in year four how good the 22-year-old McDavid really is.  He was touted as the next Sidney Crosby, Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux when he was drafted number one overall in 2015, and for many years before that, during his dominant juniors career. He has done nothing but confirm those lofty statements in the league, and he’s in the midst of his best season yet.

The Edmonton Oilers have been a dumpster fire over the last decade and a half, ever since winning the Western Conference and losing to the Hurricanes in the Stanley Cup Final in 2006. They have had four first-overall picks during that time. Some have worked, such as Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Nail Yakupov was the one true bust of the group, and then they hit the jackpot. In his first 294 games in the league, McDavid has 133 goals and 256 assists, totaling 389 points. That averages out to 1.3 points per game, more than anyone in the top 50 in NHL career points besides Gretzky and Lemieux. He dazzles fans and opposing defensemen with his speed, silky hands, and unparalleled vision, and there’s reason to believe he’s just getting started.

Let’s start with his age. Connor McDavid is 22 years old, the age of many college seniors, and has been considered hockey’s greatest player for about two years now. He’s the same age as many other great professional athletes, such as Sam Darnold, Gleyber Torres, Mat Barzal, Saquon Barkley and Lonzo Ball, who are seen as great athletes with potential to grow. Not McDavid. He is seen as the best player in the world at such a young age. Sidney Crosby was very much the same way in his age-22 season of 2009, coming off a Stanley Cup and multiple 100-point seasons. McDavid does not get the same appreciation as Crosby did that year because of the lack of a championship or really any playoff success at all. However, this isn’t his fault. Just compare the supporting casts of the 2008 Penguins to the 2018 Oilers, and you’ll see what I mean.

McDavid has also done all of this through the ineptitude of the Oilers and now former general manager Peter Chiarelli. Under Chiarelli, the Oilers traded away the aforementioned Hall, the pick that turned into Barzal while on the clock and Jordan Eberle. From these three great players, he netted Griffin Reinhart (AHL), Adam Larsson and Ryan Strome (on the Rangers).  He also signed Milan Lucic to a seven-year deal worth six million per year, when his prime had clearly passed. Now, the new regime has flipped Lucic for James Neal, who is having a resurgent season, and McDavid is reaping the benefits.

If the Oilers continue to improve the group around McDavid, they will continue to see the early-season success on the score sheet from no. 97 and in the standings. Through seven games, McDavid had 17 points, only matched by Wayne Gretzky in franchise history. The team was 7–1–1 as of Monday, and continues to pile it on offensively with 31 goals, good enough for third in the West.

We as sports fans are not appreciating the greatness in front of us with Connor McDavid, and not to his own fault. If this team continues to play well and can piece together a playoff run, people outside of hockey will finally realize just how good this guy really is, just like they did with Sidney Crosby in 2009.