Connor McDavid Is Coming To Oil Country

Connor McDavid is coming to Edmonton.

I suppose technically not until June, but even the Oilers can’t make a mistake with this selection, they will take him first overall on draft day.

Connor McDavid - OHL Images 2
Connor McDavid will be an Edmonton Oiler much to the dismay of the rest of the league (Photo: OHL Images)

With the surprising results of the draft lottery and the Oilers receiving their fourth number one pick in six years, I think it’s fair to say that the only ones happy with the results are Oilers fans.

The reaction across social media was pretty evident:

McDavid’s stunned reaction was also a somewhat evident sign that few saw it going this way. McDavid recovered well and said all the right things and while he was no doubt hoping for close to home (Buffalo or Toronto) he will be joining a group of young and talented forwards.

Playing in Edmonton itself will take some getting used to but being able to immediately lineup alongside someone like Taylor Hall should be an exciting proposition. Already one of the game’s best left wingers and a dynamic offensive player, they should form an impressive duo.

McDavid’s Impact More Than Just His Play

Connor McDavid has the potential to be a franchise-changing player with his ability, but that impact could be felt with more that just the numbers he puts on the score sheet.

Part of the reason players like Sidney Crosby, Eric Lindros, and Wayne Gretzky before them, put their teams back on the map in terms of hockey relevance was their ability to attract other players.

The previous three first overall picks the Oilers have had are all exceptional talents and could be stars in the league. They aren’t franchise-changing players though, not in the way McDavid is.

Gretzky made Edmonton one of the more desired hockey locations in the 1980’s for players to come to. Lemieux did it in the early ’90s, Lindros did it a few years later and Crosby has done it for the Penguins over the last 10 years. The chance to play with the next generational talent holds a certain appeal.

As much as Craig MacTavish has earned the golden ticket as far as a future top centre, he also needs to parlay that into other assets. Most notably on defense and in goal.

Certainly the climate and recent culture of losing have not been selling features, but the chance to play with a talented group that includes Hall, Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle and now potentially one of the new faces of the NHL, should cause some players to stop and consider it as a destination.

A Position Of Weakness To One of Strength

Defense and goaltending have long been a sore spot for the Oilers and in need of improvement. The other though and equally as important has been centre ice.

The Oilers last year had arguably the weakest group in the NHL and lacking any depth. Nugent-Hopkins is an emerging star, but there’s no way he should log that much ice time on a good team. Boyd Gordon is a solid fourth line guy, but should remain slotted there.

{See Related: Nugent-Hopkins Maturing Into Elite Player}

That’s pretty much it for NHL talent last year. The rest of the group was a mix of AHLers and cast-offs from other teams, although in the end Derek Roy provided more value than many expected.

Now looking at the group you have a cornerstone in McDavid and a 22-year-old all-star in Nugent-Hopkins to build with. There is also the chance Roy comes back as the third line centre and Gordon slots in as an ideal fourth liner.


Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports)
Nugent-Hopkins and McDavid could form a formidable future 1-2 punch (Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports)

There is also Anton Lander who showed promise to finish the season that he could also be a legitimate option in the middle for the Oilers.

That doesn’t even take into account Draisaitl, last year’s #3 pick, who can spend next season in the AHL and gain even more valuable seasoning and not have to be rushed.

The Time For Action Is Now

The Edmonton Oilers do not necessarily have to be Cup contenders next season, but they do need a significant step forward. McDavid will only be an 18 year old, but he should still be able to contribute in a top six role right away.

Nugent-Hopkins is coming off a breakout year and the arrival of McDavid should signal at some point getting some shifts that aren’t against the opponent’s top checking.

MacT now has to address his other areas of need and fast. If he is able to shore up defense and goaltending, even to an acceptable level, it will go a long way towards results but also his future.

If he thought the pressure was high to bring a winner back to Edmonton before, the heat just got more intense with McDavid. For all of the criticism he and his staff have faced, MacTavish is not oblivious. He knows the city of Edmonton needs another winner, he was part of the last ones and a member of the Oilers dynasty. He was in Edmonton when it was still called the City of Champions.

Unfortunately none of it matters until the product on the ice proves it. MacTavish needs to bring some wins in the near future or he risks going down in history with the team that accomplished the least, while being given so much.

If he can bring a winner back on the shoulders of McDavid, much of what has happened previous will be forgotten. If he can’t…..

Well no one wants to envision that scenario.


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