(Reuters) - Last week, Erie Otters wunderkind Connor McDavid made a play that even had veteran scouts in the crowd shaking their heads in amazement.
This is a common occurrence for the 18-year-old McDavid, the prize of Saturday’s National Hockey League draft lottery that will determine which team gets the opportunity to select the top-rated prospect at the 2015 draft in late June.
McDavid continued his mind-blowing ways, when the left-shooting center cruised in on his off wing, slipped a backhand pass through two defenders to trailing teammate Alex DeBrincat for an easy third-period goal in the Otters’ second-round series opener against the London Knights last week.
”On plays like that you usually see the puck carrier take a quick glance for a teammate,“ Arizona Coyotes scout Jeff Twohey told Reuters. ”But he didn’t even look.
“He has vision and speed. But he has a second gear to blow opponents away. His vision is why he is so creative. He’s a complete package. That’s why he’s considered a generational player.”
Even a veteran junior hockey man like 75-year-old Sherry Bassin, the Otters general manager, has run out of words of praise for his teenaged superstar.
“I think (Barrie Colts coach) Dale Hawerchuk said it best,” Bassin told Reuters. “Dale told me that Connor skates like Bobby Orr, sees the ice like Wayne Gretzky and handles the puck like Mario Lemieux. Anybody who knows hockey knows this is the highest of praise.”
Bassin remarked McDavid is extremely humble and would rather credit his teammates. This is not an easy act, considering how prolific the whiz kid has been in his third year of junior.
And who knows what sort of gaudy statistics McDavid, a native of Newmarket, just north of Toronto, would have put up this season had he not missed six weeks with a broken hand he suffered in a fight last November.
Still, even though McDavid’s was limited to 47 games during the 2014-15 Ontario Hockey League season, he scored 44 goals and added 76 assists for 120 points. McDavid plays in a different era, but his junior numbers stack up with the game’s greats.
McDavid, who helped Canada snap a five-year gold-medal drought at the world junior championship earlier this year, has kept his game in high gear during the playoffs.
Through nine games, he has 23 points in nine outings, including a five-goal game against London last week.
So far McDavid and the Otters have breezed through the first two rounds, taking care of the Sarnia Sting in five games and a four-game sweep against London. Next up, Erie will meet the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the West final next week.
McDavid will watch the draft lottery on television with his parents, Kelly and Brian, in Erie. He was raised a Toronto Maple Leafs fan, but has watched a steady diet of Buffalo Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins games on television the past three years because of where he’s situated in Erie.
The four teams that have the best chance at winning the weighted lottery are the Sabres (20 percent), Arizona Coyotes (13.5), Edmonton Oilers (11.5) and Maple Leafs (9.5).
In the final rankings released last week from the NHL central scouting service, McDavid was the top-rated prospect, followed by Jack Eichel (Boston University), Noah Hanifin (Boston College), Lawson Crouse (Kingston Frontenacs) and Mitch Marner (London).
Reporting by Tim Wharnsby in Toronto; Editing by Frank Pingue