On an evening in which Edmonton Oilers centre Connor McDavid made his long-awaited return to the lineup, it seemed almost fitting that the rookie phenom and Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby were front and centre in Tuesday night’s NHL schedule. While the kid wearing No. 97 had an immediate impact in his first game back since breaking his collarbone against the Philadelphia Flyers in early November, No. 87 looked pretty darn good in putting together his most productive performance of the season in picking his ninth career hat-trick.
Most points in 1st 14 career games, last 10 seasons:
Patrick Kane 17
Evgeni Malkin 16
James van Riemsdyk 16
Connor McDavid 15@EliasSports
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 3, 2016
It is funny how things sometimes tend to play out in the world of sport. From the moment he was selected first overall by the Pens in 2005, Crosby has been viewed as the best player in the game and a “generational” talent. Sound familiar? Well, it should because those are the same expectations that have been placed upon McDavid and most experts tend to believe he will have an even greater impact on the history books when all is said and done.
McDavid Could Be the Story of Second-Half
While we may be just 14 games into his career, it does look as though the youngster is the real deal. The sample size is rather small but McDavid is already showing signs of being able to dominate and he just turned 19-years old. As if putting up a three-point effort which included arguably the goal of the year against the Columbus Blue Jackets wasn’t already enough, it is the little things that stand out above everything else when it comes to this kid.
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Yes, his ability to do things at a ridiculous speed is simply jaw-dropping but it is McDavid’s determination to make plays and attempt to get control of every single puck within his reach which is so impressive. Be it on the forecheck, in the neutral zone or his own end of the rink, McDavid seemingly never stops pursuing and it is both frightening and such a joy to watch. Few players in today’s game seem as determined as this kid and with his skill-set being what it is…the sky truly is the limit.
Don’t Expect Crosby To Go Quietly
While the passing of the torch could happen much sooner than many had anticipated, expecting Crosby to willingly relinquish his crown would be a mistake. After struggling for much of the first-half of the season to find his game, the two-time Art Ross Trophy winner has been on an absolute tear of late and managed to light the Ottawa Senators up for three goals and a season-high four points on Tuesday night. Since the start of the New Year, no player in the league has scored more goals (11) than the 28-year old pivot and he appears to be getting better with each and every game.
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In the blink of an eye, Crosby has gone from being completely out of the picture in the scoring race to suddenly finding himself at No. 14 on the list with 20 goals, 45 points and is another hot stretch away from cracking the Top Five. Not shabby for a guy who many felt may be hitting a bit of a wall in what has truly been a wonderful career, despite dealing with severe concussion issues that likely cost him what would have been some of his most productive seasons.
In a perfect world, it would be fantastic for hockey fans everywhere to have the privilege of watching both Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid perform at an elite level for the foreseeable future. Again, at some point, we will see the transition occur from No. 87 to No. 97 as the premier player in the game today but one can only hope that McDavid’s drive to be the best will help push Crosby to be that much better in the coming years. God knows the NHL could use the excitement and hopefully it would go a long way in helping teams potentially change their approach to how they play the game.
Rob Soria is the Author of Connor McDavid: Hockey’s Next Great One. He has chronicled the Orange and Blue since creating his Oil Drop blog in 2011 and has also had his writings featured over at HometownHockey.ca and Vavel USA, where he has covered the NHL, MLB and ATP Tour. Rob was born, raised and still resides in Edmonton, Alberta and can be reached via twitter @Oil_Drop.