Connor McDavid The Next Great One: When asked who the best hockey players of all time are, you’ll always get the same few answers. From the past, it’s Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Gordie Howe, and the like.
For modern day players, you’ll get Crosby and Ovechkin consistently, but a few names have started to enter the conversation of the best players of today. One of those names is Connor McDavid, the first-line center and captain of the Edmonton Oilers.
At only 24, his six first seasons have seen him become one of the top players in the league, and it’s not hard to believe that he still has more room to develop. This current season, shortened to a 56 game schedule due to a quick turnaround from last year’s pandemic extended one, has seen McDavid eclipse the 100-point mark, a feat that no one would have thought possible.
In his six seasons, he’s eclipsed the 100-point threshold four times, and were the season not shortened due to the pandemic last year, he would have made it five times, with those all coming consecutively. Now leading the Oilers once again to the playoffs with hopes of making his first Finals appearance, perhaps it’s time to look at McDavid’s career so far, and see how he racks up amongst his peers, and those that came before, to truly appreciate how astonishing his career stats are.
Since the 2016-2017 season, McDavid’s second year in the league, he’s led the league in points three times, assists twice, named to the all star game four times, and has won the Art Ross and Ted Lindsay awards twice each, with a Hart trophy to boot.
Over that time, he’s led the league in assists(346), third in goals(179), and by a wide margin, led in points(525). In second is fellow Oiler Leon Draisaitl, with 445. This sheer dominance is happening in the first few seasons of his career, having a knack for point-getting from very early on.
He is one of only nine active players to have a 100 point season within his first six seasons, and along with Crosby and Ovechkin, one of the only ones to have an astounding four seasons with 100 or more points in that time span. It should be noted that McDavid has done this playing in fewer games(406) than either Crosby(412) or Ovechkin(475). McDavid has clearly earned his place amongst the current greats in the league, and looks like he can continue to put up numbers that rival these two future hall of famers.
In putting McDavid’s numbers against both present day stars and the greats of the past, I will be using some adjusted stats to properly compare players.
Stat tracking site Stathead has a great metric of adjusting key stats like goals and assists in order to provide proper comparisons. Their metrics adjusts stats to a modern day 82 game schedule, with standard league numbers of 18 skaters, along with an average of 6 goals per game, and 1.67 assists per goal scored.
While perhaps not as necessary when comparing the likes of McDavid and Crosby, it definitely puts a comparison between McDavid and Gretzky in a better context. Let’s use Gretzky’s numbers as a measure of this statistic.
Playing during a time of higher scoring, fewer skaters, fewer games, and a number of different rules and styles of play, Gretzky’s numbers seem somewhat inflated in relation to the highs that we see today. Through Gretzky’s first six seasons in the league, he managed to tally 429 goals and 629 assists, for a total of 1122 points.
Absolutely unbelievable numbers today, but he also did this in an era far different than the one we have today. Adjusting these stats using the metrics noted above, Gretzky’s goal total drops to 337, assists drop to 551, and ultimately leading to an adjusted point total of 888. Still insane numbers, but more realistic within today’s game.
The adjusted totals for today’s stars provide a better picture of how good McDavid is. He’s played in two shortened seasons over his career, and only played in 45 games his rookie season. Using the adjusted totals, McDavid would have had 674 points over the course of six average seasons, compared to Ovechkin’s 643 and Crosby’s 593 in their first six seasons in the league.
As mentioned before, it doesn’t make as much sense to use this sort of statistic for modern day players who are contemporaries of one another, playing with the same rules and styles, but it does make for some interesting arguments about whose first few seasons in the league were more dominant.
Now enters the historical argument: where in this stage of his career does McDavid rank among the best the league has seen? Looking at the unadjusted totals, he still stacks up.
The top three of the list are the usual suspects, with Gretzky(1122), Mario Lemiuex(838), and Peter Stasny(713) making up the top three. Nine of the top ten are all in the hall of fame currently, with the only non-hall of famer in that list, Ovechkin, a sure bet for it when he retires.
However, these lists don’t account for the various changes to the league over the years, which has surely changed the way the game has played, and for a long time has led to lower scoring. Gretzky’s 212 point season can never be repeated because the game today doesn’t allow for it. Here’s where adjusted stats come into play.
The top two stay in place, Gretzky’s adjusted 888 points and Lemieux’s adjusted 689. Connor McDavid is third in this list, followed by Ovechkin. When your name is right beside the likes of Gretzky and Lemiuex, that’s rarified air that only a handful of players can stake claim to in the league’s history.
In no way is this calling McDavid a hall of famer already; no one can claim that in their first six seasons.
However, McDavid is proving to be on a track that will put him right there with the greats if he is able to continue to play at the level he is currently. If he can keep it up, there’s no reason not to believe he was what it takes to be in the top five for points all time.
The personal accolades will certainly fall his way, so that’s no issue. If he’s able to notch multiple Stanley Cup wins under his belt in his career, along with keeping up this pace, there’d be every reason to compare him to Gretzky, and ask ourselves if McDavid is the next Great One.