Connor McDavid is already playing smart hockey
Nine games into the his rookie season, there aren’t many people who would say Connor McDavid has been a disappointment. Contributing a point per game to the Edmonton Oilers, and leading them in goals and points, while forming a formidable duo with Nail Yakupov, McDavid has been excellent.
What’s even more impressive than his point production though, is that McDavid has already shown signs that he’s not only a talented hockey player, but a smart one. Many have given rave reviews to his defensive work, but I want to focus on his transition play into the offensive zone.
For a couple years now there has been a lot of focus on the positive impact of carrying or passing the puck into the offensive zone instead of dumping it in, and McDavid really likes to hold onto the puck.
The Oilers as a team dump the puck in more than average (fifth most in the NHL), and their forwards actually dump the puck in at a higher rate than any other team in the league. Yet there’s McDavid over there, who is extremely hesitant to let go of the puck unless he’s passing to a teammate. The next best Oiler happens to be Yakupov, who no doubt benefits from playing with McDavid.
McDavid isn’t just good compared to his Oilers compatriots either, he’s among the elites in the league in this category with players like Evgeni Malkin, Erik Karlsson, and Johnny Gaudreau.
The elite speed and puckhandling ability that McDavid possesses should make him a zone entry phenom in the coming years. More than that, McDavid’s ability to shake stick coverage should create some serious scoring chances for him. Already he completes 1.6 offensive zone dekes per 20 minutes played, more than Vladimir Tarasenko and equivalent to Patrick Kane, not to mention double the next best Oiler in Taylor Hall.
But a percentage only tells you one thing, how often is McDavid actually entering the offensive zone?
While he isn’t leading the team in terms of how often he’s actually entering the offensive zone per 20 minutes played, being right up there beside the two most talented Oilers by far is a credit to the 18-year-old phenom.
To think of what McDavid might be able to accomplish in the future with his speed alone, you have to wonder how much longer the Oilers can struggle in the wins column.
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