Oilers’ McDavid leads NHL in points at All-Star break
Jay Woodcroft is in a unique position.
The Edmonton Oilers head coach has a front-row seat — and behind-the-scenes access — to the daily process of workplace greatness.
And even in a season where Connor McDavid looks set to hit statistical highs not seen in nearly three decades, Woodcroft admits there are times when the best in hockey is taken for granted.
“The best of his pack,” the second-year Oilers coach said of the Edmonton captain. “You become almost desensitized to the great things he does because he does it every day. I would compare that to someone living at the foot of Mount Everest.
“You don’t appreciate the magnificence you see.”
McDavid has certainly been magnificent this season.
The 26-year-old heads into the NHL All-Star break with a league-leading 92 points in 50 games – 16 more than teammate Leon Draisaitl, a distant second in the overall race.
McDavid is on pace to score 151 points in 2022-23, the most since Mario Lemieux’s 161 in 1995-96 and two better than Jaromir Jagr’s total of the same season.
He’s also on track for 67 goals – two shy of Lemieux in the mid-1990s and two better than Alex Ovechkin’s 65 goals in 2007-08.
But despite McDavid’s name on the scoresheet almost every time the Newmarket, Ont. product hits the ice, it feels like his bar-raising performance doesn’t get the level of attention. appropriate.
“If he was this dominant in the NFL, NBA or MLB, he would be talked about a lot more,” New York Rangers forward Barclay Goodrow said. “I don’t think there is another player in all four major sports leagues as dominant.”
Ottawa Senators captain Brady Tkachuk recalls flinching at the thought of having to face the Oilers nine times during the COVID-19-shortened 2020-21 NHL division-only season .
Twice in 82 games is enough.
“To see how far he is ahead of the pack, I think we need to talk about it more,” Tkachuk said. “I feel like everyone is like, ‘Oh, this is what we expect.'”
John Tavares said McDavid’s 41 goals – three from his career high last season – is what really pops off the page.
“A type of player the league has never seen before,” said the Toronto Maple Leafs captain.
Tavares added that early in his career, McDavid was a pass-dominating center capable of scoring because he saw the puck so much, thought the game on a different level and was always around the net.
“Now he really puts defenders and goalkeepers on their heels with his output, his shooting, his confidence, the type of goals he scores,” Tavares said. “It’s definitely been a step up for him. Really impressive to see how he continues to improve.”
Nashville Predators defenseman Roman Josi said McDavid just wasn’t getting the accolades he deserved.
“Because it’s Connor McDavid,” Josi said. “There really are no words for what he does. Like, it’s crazy. He should get a lot more credit for what he does. But because he’s so good, I guess This is not the case.”
Tavares said much of the hockey he watches is on late-night television.
McDavid is often the star attraction.
“Every shift you expect him to do something,” Tavares said. “He’s got the puck so much. The skating is so dominating. He had 105 points in the shortened COVID season (56 games) – amazing to think anyone could do that.
“He pushes away that envelope of what that beat was.”
Woodcroft said the push was heightened by additional layers to McDavid’s game — namely a willingness to shoot more and accept a more vocal role in the Edmonton locker room.
“He’s the NHL’s leading scorer for a reason,” Woodcroft said. “He does it in different ways.”
Goodrow, who grew up in the northern suburbs of Toronto and heard McDavid’s name spoken inside local rinks long before he became the NHL’s brightest light, said trying to contain the first pick in the 2015 draft is now nearly impossible.
“So much faster than everyone else,” said Goodrow. “You can do your job, you can keep him out. But if he’s got that step on you, if he’s got that chance…it’s tough.
“Fun to watch. Horrible to play against. But great for our league.”
Brady Tkachuk will be joined by his older brother and Florida Panthers winger Matthew Tkachuk on the Atlantic Division squad for Saturday’s NHL All-Star Game. They will become the 11th group of brothers in league history to play on the same all-star team, and the first since Henrik and Daniel Sedin in 2012.
Friday’s All-Star Skills competition will have the classics like fastest skater, hardest shot, shot accuracy and breakaway challenge. There will also be a few rides in South Florida, including a “splash kick” event that will see players attempt to hit targets and send opponents into a water-filled dunk tank.
With files by Gemma Karstens-Smith.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on February 1, 2023.