McDavid impresses in OHL loss to Russia
GUELPH, Ont. — Connor McDavid doesn’t have any grandioso dreams about making Canada’s national junior hockey team.
Though he didn’t look out of place in the Ontario Hockey League’s 2-1 loss to Russia in Game 3 of the Subway Super Series on Thursday, the 15-year-old is keeping his first international experience in perspective.
“I don’t think there’s a very good chance,” McDavid said matter-of-factly after Maxim Shalunov’s goal at 13:05 of the third period gave Russia the win over the OHL’s all-stars.
It was the first time the Russians have beaten the OHL in 19 games and gave them a 2-1 lead in the Super Series.
“But you know, if I have a good month here and maybe get the invite to Calgary, we’ll see what happens,” said McDavid. “But I don’t think there’s too much of a chance.”
McDavid can downplay his chances of making the world junior squad, but he seems to be a lock to spend that time in Quebec for the world under-17 challenge.
“I think the U17 team is a little more reasonable expectation, but if I can maybe make the world junior team it would a tremendous honour and a dream come true. If it’s U17, then that’s what it is. I’ll be so happy about that too,” he said.
“There’s a lot of Hockey Canada guys out there and they watched everybody and took notes. Where they think I can play is up to them.”
Whenever McDavid was on the ice Thursday the puck seemed to follow him. Though the Russians curbed his scoring chances, he did show some flashes of offence and threw the odd hit.
Junior team coach Steve Spott wasn’t surprised at his play.
“We tried to protect him a little bit in regards to putting him on the wing,” said Spott. “But you can see, he’s one of those players that seems to have the puck on his stick all the time and is able to create offence.”
Spott added that McDavid is a special player and will have a bright future in the national program, even if it’s not right now.
“He’ll be evaluated here tonight, but I think Hockey Canada has proven this summer, they did it with Nathan McKinnon, that there’s a progression,” Spott said.
“You want these kids in situations where they can play their position, play big minutes and excel. The last thing we need is to put Connor McDavid in a situation where he’s not going to get first power-play time and be an offensive threat.
“I can tell you, he earned the opportunity to be here tonight and that’s what’s most important.”
If McDavid does make the junior lineup, he would usurp Jay Bouwmeester as the youngest player to wear a sweater for Canada at 16 years, three months. McDavid won’t turn 16 until Jan. 13, but the Erie Otters rookie has come as advertised.
Earning exceptional player status to enter the 2012 OHL Priority Selection, McDavid leads OHL rookies in scoring with eight goals and 13 assists on a last-place team.
“When you look at some the great players that wore this sweater, he’s going to be in line with the (Steve) Stamkoses and the (John) Tavares, and I believe he has a chance to be a special NHL player,” Spott said.
And the coach could probably use his scoring as only Tyler Graovac was able beat the Russian goaltending duo of Andrei Vasilevski and Igor Ustinski on Thursday.
Vasilevski allowed one goal on 16 shots, while Ustinski was perfect, not allowing a goal on eight shots.
On the OHL side, Malcolm Subban stopped all seven shots he faced in nearly 32 minutes before giving way to Jordan Binnington, who turned aside eight of 10 shots.
Anton Shenfeld scored the other goal for Russia.
The OHL actually opened the scoring 5:49 into the second period while shorthanded, as Sean Monahan picked the pocket of Russian defenceman Nikita Nesterov and went in on a 2-on-1 with his Ottawa 67’s teammate Graovac.
Monahan fed Graovac, who put a nifty deke on Vasilevski before roofing a backhand shot.
Neither team really did anything offensively after that until Russia struck for two quick goals in the third period.
Shenfeld finished a great solo effort, beating defenceman Slater Koekkoek before snapping a shot past Binnington’s blocker. Shalunov then struck 24 seconds later, wristing a shot on a 2-on-1 that snuck under Binnington.
Binnington was pulled for an extra attacker in the final minute, but Brett Ritchie took a checking from behind penalty with 31 seconds remaining to thwart a comeback attempt.
OHL was 0-for-3 on the power play, while Russia wasn’t able to score on four opportunities with the man advantage.
Game 4 is on Monday in Sarnia, Ont., as the OHL will look to tie the series.