Photo via Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press
A Connor McDavid primary assist on Jesse Puljujarvi’s first period goal against the Winnipeg Jets on Feb. 17 would not catch the eye on the initial glimpse. Neither would McDavid’s second assist to fellow forward Leon Draisaitl on a power-play goal late in the second period, for that matter.
While McDavid’s two-point performance netted the Edmonton Oilers the 3-2 victory (and gave Oilers’ head coach Dave Tippett his 600th-career NHL win as a head coach), it would not be the key storyline of the evening. Instead, it would come from McDavid himself, as his two points would give the 24-year-old center several accolades, both in regard to the 2021 season and in the entire history of the NHL.
Now, now, one breakdown at a time, OK? Let’s first look at his 2021 significance first before going into the historical aspect of those two points. First off, his two points against Winnipeg has helped keep McDavid atop the points leaderboard – McDavid’s 32 points (nine goals, 23 assists) at the start of Feb. 18 action lead all NHL skaters (his teammate in Draisaitl is second among all NHL skaters with 28 points). When breaking it down even further, McDavid’s 23 assists additionally lead all NHL skaters (Vancouver’s Quinn Hughes ranks second with 18), while his nine goals are tied for sixth (Joe Pavelski, Alex DeBrincat, Josh Anderson, Brad Marchand and Johnny Gaudreau all have six goals to their name as well).
Now, McDavid’s performance this early in the season should not surprise anyone. Despite his youth, McDavid has already collected more hardware than many long-time veterans could ever dream of. After all, McDavid, in less than six years of NHL action, has already won the Hart Memorial Trophy once (2016-17 season), the Ted Lindsay Award twice (2016-17 and 2017-18) and the Art Ross Trophy twice (2016-17 and 2017-18). McDavid’s productivity and consistency from the start of the season to the end of it has always remained balanced enough to garner these awards in the first place. Again, this is nothing new.
This season, however, has seen McDavid take it to another level, if this was at all possible. In 18 games played, McDavid has collected at least one point in all but three of those games and at least two points in 10 of those 18 games. The multi-point prowess is what needs to be looked at in particular – the multi-point stretch marks the first time McDavid has ever picked up 10 multi-point games through his first 18 games of a season (his previous career-high over the same span was eight during the 2018-19 season).
While this is most certainly impressive, it is in no way up to par when looking at the historical significance McDavid found his way into on Feb. 17. Remember those two assists in Edmonton’s 3-2 victory over Winnipeg? Those were his 500th and 501st career NHL points. Among all NHL skaters to reach 500 career points, McDavid did it in 369 career games, which is tied for eighth fastest in NHL history (Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby). Among the seven skaters ahead of McDavid are fellow Edmonton alumni in Wayne Gretzky (first in 234 games) and Jari Kurri (sixth in 356 games).
While Edmonton is still attempting to find the right goaltending and defensive pieces needed to supplement McDavid, there is no denying the talent the young center has at his disposal. Even if McDavid does not find the back of the net, his on-ice presence opens up more opportunities for his fellow line mates to score in his place. As Edmonton looks to solidify one of the top spots in the Scotia North Division this season, McDavid will continue to be a one-of-a-kind trump card that Edmonton’s division rivals will have to overcome.
While McDavid’s performance against Winnipeg might not have been the most electric, it still carried significance in more ways than one. Should the young center continue to sharpen his game, he will most definitely find himself in the NHL history books more frequently as he continues his NHL career.