There will be no Memorial Cup for Connor McDavid — or, rather, no McDavid for the Memorial Cup.
The consensus top prospect for next month’s NHL draft and the biggest draw in junior hockey, McDavid won’t be in Quebec City for the CHL’s championship tournament beginning Friday. The 18-year-old phenom fell short when his Erie Otters lost to the Oshawa Generals in the OHL final in five games. McDavid had been dominant to that point in the playoffs, racking up 49 points in 20 games — just 2 points shy of the OHL record shared by Justin Papineau (1999) and Jason Dawe (1993). But McDavid didn’t go home empty-handed as he won the Wayne Gretzky ‘99’ Award as playoff MVP in defeat. And don’t forget McDavid also won world-junior gold with Canada in January, playing a key role as an under-ager coming off a wrist injury to solidify his draft ranking.
With the Edmonton Oilers expected to select McDavid first overall — and likely to make that intention known sooner than later now that his season has concluded — it is a foregone conclusion that McDavid’s junior career has come to an end. Just how dominant was the Newmarket, Ont., native over the course of three OHL seasons?
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) May 16, 2015
McDavid’s highlight reel — both from the regular season and playoffs, as well as years past — is unrivalled in recent memory. He’s considered a generational talent, every bit as good as Sidney Crosby was coming out of junior.
Crosby did, however, carry his Rimouski Oceanic club all the way to the final of the 2005 Memorial Cup with a weaker supporting cast, ultimately losing 4-0 to the host London Knights led by tournament MVP Corey Perry. Crosby did win the top scorer award with 11 points in four games.
That McDavid’s team didn’t go all the way won’t impact his draft position. But it is worth noting that No. 1 picks Taylor Hall (2010, OHL’s Windsor Spitfires) and Nathan MacKinnon (2013, QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads) led their junior teams to Memorial Cup championships in their draft years, both winning the top scorer and MVP honours in those tournaments. Hall, who could be McDavid’s linemate in a few months, was actually a two-time MVP of the Memorial Cup, also winning the award as an under-ager in 2009 when his Spitfires teammate Adam Henrique (New Jersey) and Jamie Benn (Dallas), then of the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets, tied for top scorer.
Of course, the peanut gallery got some pleasure from McDavid’s pain:
Connor McDavid about to end his junior career on a losing note, which is a perfect transition to life with the Edmonton Oilers.
— Ian McLaren (@iancmclaren) May 16, 2015
So McDavid is out of the playoffs. In a related story, Oiler fans are asking McDavid "What are the playoffs like?".
— Andy Sorensen (@sorensen_andy) May 16, 2015
McDavid’s time in the OHL left little reason to hang his head and he’ll more than likely get the last laugh.
— OntarioHockeyLeague (@OHLHockey) May 16, 2015
McDavid will finish his #ohl career with 97 goals. Go figure.
— Matt and DJ (@IceDogsThisWeek) May 16, 2015
For now, McDavid’s focus will shift to surviving the draft combine — he may or may not participate in the physical testing — and all the hype until his name is officially called to the stage on June 26 in Sunrise, Fla. Then, as he’s already indicated: “The real work begins,” as McDavid spends the summer months attempting to bulk up to handle the rigours of the NHL come fall.
The Generals were a “heavier” team and limited McDavid to only one assist in three games in Oshawa, so that’ll serve as a blueprint for NHL teams to contain him. Oshawa certainly seemed to wear down McDavid and it won’t get any easier next season, matching up against the likes of Ryan Getzlaf and Jonathan Toews in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.
McDavid will have his work cut out for him going forward, but he should be able to enjoy the next month leading up to draft day and look back on his junior career with fond memories. If only he could’ve capped it off with a Memorial Cup.
Larry Fisher is a sports reporter for The Daily Courier in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. Follow him on Twitter: @LarryFisher_KDC.