Top Shelf Prospects: Connor McDavid impresses as a 15 year old Exceptional OHLer

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Welcome to today’s edition of “Top Shelf Prospects”. Previously I reviewed the prospects of all thirty NHL teams, and previewed the CHL season. If you missed any of my previous articles you can find a complete listing of my them here.

Just 15 years old, Connor McDavid was granted exceptional player status and is the third player to enter the OHL early under this rule. (John Tavares and Aaron Ekblad were 1st and 2nd respectively). The young McDavid has started his OHL career and is looking to show that he deserves the label. Going to Erie, the worst team in the OHL last season, he’s immediately stepped into a top line role and is getting big minutes even to start the season. He’s shown some Chemistry with teammate Stephen Harper (no not that Stephen Harper) and is getting buzz from players like Sidney Crosby as the next big thing in hockey.  Today Top Shelf Prospects looks at Connor McDavid, and his abilities and talents.

Born Jan 13 1997 — Toronto, ONT
Height 5.11 — Weight 170 — Shoots L

I had the opportunity to see a few of Erie’s games in the past week (on video) and I specifically focused my attention on Connor McDavid.  The latest phenom is certainly living up to the hype as he is leading the Otters in scoring and has 11 points in 9 games as a 15 year old in the OHL.

Top Shelf Prospects: Connor McDavid impresses as a 15 year old Exceptional OHLer

Lets start with looking at the offensive weapons here, and the kid has it all.  Exceptional hands and stickhandling ability, he can dangle past a defender and does an excellent job of protecting the puck and maintaining possession.  His hockey sense and decision making is already at an elite level, even moving up to the faster OHL.  His decision making and vision are excellent, he reads the play very well and always seems to keep the puck moving in a smart and efficient manner.  His passing is outstanding as the young centre has the ability to thread pucks through tight spaces and put passes tape to tape at high speeds.  He’s an elite level playmaker.  McDavid also possesses an accurate shot, with a good release, but will need to continue to work on his strength and the velocity of his shots going forward.

His ability to make all these plays at a high speed, and to never have to slow down his feet to control the puck is a huge asset.  He has the ability to change gears quickly and effectively and this aids him in beating defenders.  His top speed is good, but its the acceleration and the ability to vary his attacks, to slow the game down when necessary or to make the quick play that really sets him apart.  The unpredictability can leave defenders flat footed as he quickly accelerates around them.  Or he can look like he his going to beat his man wide and suddenly slow down, opening up space for a shot or quick play in front of the defender.  His agility and edgework is also outstanding.  He also has very good balance and is a lot stronger on his skates than I expected.  Sure as  15 year old he will occasionally be knocked over by bigger stronger, 19 and 20 year old defencemen, but it doesn’t happen as often as I thought it would knowin his age.

Another impressive asset for McDavid is his two way game.  Is he a perfect defensive forward?  At 15 just coming into the league, of course not.  But his game is far more developed than I expected as well.  He backchecks hard, and is a willing defender out there.  He works along the boards, and down low, showing grit and determination (but again must put on some weight and strength).  He anticipates plays very well and causes turnovers and starts the transition game with a smart play as soon as these occur.  McDavid is even being used by the Otters to kill penalties at this point, and he certainly doesn’t look out of place.  There is room for improvement here, but McDavid is already far better defensively than the other exceptional status forward, John Tavares was in his first season in the OHL.

McDavid is living up to the hype and I believe it will only grow for him going forward.  He’s a special player and a guy all OHL and NHL fans should keep their eye on.  The sky is the limit on this kid’s potential, there is no doubt about that.  I’m going to be very interested in him going forward over the next several years.