Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Oilers’ McDavid lights it up in pre-season win in Saskatoon

The Oilers salute the crowd at the SaskTel Centre.
    It feels like a fire hydrant could get 40 points playing on a line with Connor McDavid.
    The Edmonton Oilers phenom sent a partisan crowd of 10,387 spectators at the SaskTel home happy on Wednesday night netting a pair of goals and an assist. McDavid’s efforts allowed the Oilers to blank the Carolina Hurricanes 4-0 in an NHL pre-season contest.
    Wednesday’s contest was the second last pre-season outing for the Oilers, who close out their exhibition schedule on Saturday by traveling to Vancouver to take on the Canucks. At still the young age of 20, McDavid is a known commodity having won the Hart Trophy last season as the NHL’s most valuable player and the Art Ross Trophy as the circuit’s leading scorer. 
    During the off-season McDavid signed an eight-year $100-million contract extension with the Oilers that kicks in after his entry-level contract expires at the end of the 2017-18 campaign.
    He doesn’t have to prove anything in a contest that doesn’t affect the Oilers fate when it comes to the regular season or playoffs.
    With all that in mind, McDavid still went out and gave a top level effort, and the superstar centre brought the fans to their feet on numerous occasions. Oilers head coach Todd McLellan said the support of the spectators was justified.
    “He (McDavid) has earned that right,” said McLellan, whose team improved to 6-1 in the pre-season. “The people respect him for the player that he is and the performance that he puts on night in and night out.
    “It would have been easy for him to go through the motions and take the night off, but that is not the type of player here is. Every time he puts the gear on, he wants to lead his team. He wants to get better as a player.
    “He is a good example for all of our players, and I am sure for a lot of the young players that are in the building here tonight in Saskatoon. He shows up every day to get better.”
    After Zach Kassian scored for the Oilers on a wraparound just 1:49 into the first period, McDavid went to work.
    He was the man that helped start the tick-tack-toe passing play that resulted in an Oilers power-play goal from left-winger Milan Lucic at the 13:16 mark of the opening frame.
    From the right corner boards, McDavid found Draisaitl down low by the left corner of the Carolina goal. McDavid’s pass seemed to have eyes as the puck found a lane through a maze of bodies to get to Draisaitl, who is a former member of the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders.
The Oilers and Hurricanes scrum it up late in the third period.
    Draisaitl fed a pass across the face of the net to Lucic, who calmly corralled the puck and plunked it into an open cage.
    The Oilers weren’t able to increase their edge until the final 10 minutes of the third period, when McDavid really left the SaskTel Centre crowd in awe.
    With the Hurricanes working on a power play, McDavid was sprung on a breakaway. Carolina netminder Cam Ward looked like a deer in the headlights as McDavid closed in. The first overall selection in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft gave a little juke and snapped home a shot to the low left corner of the Hurricanes goal to give the Oilers a 3-0 lead.
    Shortly after that marker, McDavid scored his second of the contest on an individual effort coming down the left side of the offensive zone to make the score 4-0 in Edmonton’s favour.
    Late in the third, McDavid was going in for another scoring chance, when he was hauled down by Hurricanes defenceman Jake Bean. McDavid had a step on Bean, and the crowd was hoping for a penalty shot only to see Bean given a minor infraction for hooking.
    McDavid exploded offensively playing on a line with grinder Patrick Maroon on left wing and highly touted rookie prospect Kailer Yamamoto on right wing. Yamamoto, who turns 19 on Friday, starred the past three seasons with the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs and was selected in the first round and 22nd overall by the Oilers in the NHL Entry Draft held last June.
    On Wednesday night, Yamamoto picked up one assist, but he seemed content just to pass the puck to McDavid and watch McDavid go. McDavid was happy he gave the fans reasons to cheer.
    “It always nice to see the love for the Oilers,” said McDavid, who had 30 goals and 70 assists in leading the NHL in scoring last season. “Anywhere we go in Canada, the fans are so passionate wherever across Canada.
    “It is special to see the Oiler fans here tonight.”
    Laurent Brossoit made 30 saves to pick up the win in goal for the Oilers. Ward turned away 18 shots taking the setback in net for the Hurricanes (4-2).
    Defenceman Eric Gryba, who is from Saskatoon, came to the Oilers from the Ottawa Senators in an off-season trade in 2015, and he has seen McDavid play since his NHL arrival. Gryba is always impressed with how well McDavid is received no matter where the Oilers go.
    “It is never surprising at all,” said Gryba. “There is a reason he gets that kind of reception, and it is obviously well deserving.”

Tweet of the night

    The local media had some fun at the NHL pre-season game on Wednesday night with Darren Dupont posting tweets of possible doppelgangers.
    Dupont posted a picture of CTV’s Pat McKay and said everyone rubbing shoulders Oilers centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who was scratched that night. Dupont proceeded to snap a picture of me and tweet out they were also rubbing shoulders with Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli.
    I had a good laugh, when I saw the pictures during the second intermission. It is always good to have fun at the rink, and the rink should always be a great place to be.

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