Can Next Big Thing Connor McDavid Live Up to the Hype?

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistMarch 1, 2013

Mario Lemieux, Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby (Courtesy of Pittsburgh Penguins)
Mario Lemieux, Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby (Courtesy of Pittsburgh Penguins)

How good is hockey phenom Connor McDavid?

Considering he won't be eligible for the NHL draft until 2015, there's no way of truly knowing what kind of hockey player he is going to be when he reaches the next level.

But there's every reason to believe that McDavid is going to make hockey fans swoon when he dons an NHL uniform. He's already made a hockey god swoon.

That would be Bobby Orr. McDavid was playing at Orr's hockey camp in 2010 and as Orr came to the rink to watch the youngsters play, he saw a 13-year-old McDavid going through drills with a refined technique and superior balance while skating.

“Oh my God,” Orr said at the time and recalled for the New York Times. “Who’s that?"

Orr was gushing over the 13-year-old McDavid, much as the way former Bruins scout Wren Blair sat slack-jawed the first time he viewed the 14-year-old Orr with the puck in 1962.

Both players were showing off their skills against older players and dominating with their balance, skating, instincts and ability.

This is not to suggest that the 16-year-old McDavid will be another Orr. McDavid may not be another Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux or Sidney Crosby, either. But when he is drafted in 2015, he will be the player who everybody wants, and he may be as worthy of the No. 1 pick in the draft as John Tavares was when the New York Islanders selected him with the top pick in the 2009 draft.

McDavid is playing with the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League. He was the first player drafted in the OHL even though he was not even technically eligible to be selected. However, since he had been granted Exceptional Player Status by Hockey Canada, the Otters were allowed to select him the first pick in the league's draft.

McDavid has shown that he is not too young to compete in the OHL. He has scored 58 points in 56 games and is his team's second-leading scorer.

McDavid is a 5'11" and 175-pound center. He sees the ice like a savvy veteran. He holds on to the puck a split second longer than most players before shooting, passing or accelerating into a hole.

He has hockey sense to the point where it has impressed Crosby. "He reminds me of me," Crosby told the USA Today.

McDavid has a lot of growing to do and he has to get stronger. However, his ability has gotten attention of two of the game's greatest historical names in Orr and Crosby.

That tells you that McDavid may be capable of joining the sport's greatest names—at some point. 

He is not leaving his strength training to chance. He is working with Gary Roberts, the former NHL player who is considered one of hockey's top conditioning experts.

Roberts works with Steven Stamkos and several other NHL stars, and Roberts has told McDavid that his strength would come as a result of the training and hard work that he is doing now.

McDavid has impressed his teammates with his humble attitude and his work ethic. He is often the first one at the arena every day and the last one to leave.

He is a non-stop effort player even when the Erie Otters are getting throttled, as they often do. He simply wants it as much as any of the great players.

Does he risk burn out? Perhaps. But there have been no signs of it. McDavid lives, breathes, eats, and most importantly, loves hockey.

A stellar career appears to be within his reach.

At this point, it seems he has the tools to to not only live up to the hype but also to exceed it.