Breaking the 100-point barrier wouldn’t be much of a story or a stretch for Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers in any other season. But since the 2020-21 NHL campaign has been shortened from the regular 82 games to 56 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s now become a race to the finish line.
After his first 47 games, the 24-year-old center from Richmond Hill, Ontario had racked up a league-leading 84 points on 28 goals and 56 assists, meaning he needed to post an additional 16 points in his final nine outings to hit the century mark. At his current scoring pace of 1.79 points-per-game he should just make it.
So far this season McDavid has become the first NHL player to reach the 80-point mark in 47 games since Mario Lemieux of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1996-97. The Oilers’ captain is also on pace for a 147-point season pro-rated over 82 games and Lemieux was the last player to win the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s leading scorer with more than 130 points when he posted 161 in 1995-96. Let’s add that Lemieux was also the last player to average more points-per-game during a season when he reached 1.77 back in 2000-01.
McDavid has more or less wrapped his third Art Ross Trophy up already considering he has a 17-point lead on his teammate Leon Draisaitl, who ranks second in league scoring. Draisaitl is also having a season to remember as he recently notched his 488th point to pass Marco Sturm as the highest-scoring German-born player in NHL history. Draisaitl achieved the feat in 468 games while Sturm earned his points in in 938 outings.
There’s a good chance McDavid will also win his second Hart Memorial Trophy as the player deemed most valuable to his team and could bag his third Ted Lindsay Award as the league’s most outstanding player, which is voted on by his peers in the NHL Players’ Association. He’s still in the race for the Rocket Richard Trophy as the top goalscorer but is a longshot considering he trails Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs by seven.
The only players in league history to have won at least two Hart and three Art Ross trophies so far are Lemieux, Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe, Stan Mikita, Bobby Hull and Guy Lafleur. So there’s no doubt McDavid’s in good company and he hasn’t reached 25 years of age yet.
No matter what McDavid is able to achieve this season though, he still hasn’t peaked yet. He continues to improve year after year since being drafted first overall by the Oilers in 2015 and breaking into the league a few months later. His points-per-game average has risen steadily each season from 1.07 as a rookie to 1.52 last year.
He simply continues to create quality scoring chances for his teammates and himself game after game due to his speed and vision. He’s tops in the league when it comes to rush-scoring chances and controlled zone entries which means he doesn’t have much of a problem getting the puck into the offensive zone and then creating quality opportunities once he’s there.
McDavid’s leading the league in puck possession in the offensive zone and has been averaging 4.2 scoring chances per contest. He’s also finding his open teammates with regularity and leads the league in assists. When all of his offensive metrics are added up it’s certainly no surprise he’s going to take the Art Ross trophy home again.
But for all of his lofty individual achievements since entering the league, critics point out that McDavid has played in just 17 playoff games. His team played 13 postseason contests in 2016-17 before bowing out with the captain posting five goals and four assists. He then contributed five goals and four helpers in just four outings in 2019-20 but the Oilers were eliminated in four games in the best-of-five postseason qualifying round.
It’s hard to pin the blame on the team’s lack of playoff success on a guy who’s registered 18 points in 17 postseason games. But it is still a fact that the Oilers have reached the actual playoffs just once with McDavid and only went as far as the qualifiers last year. That’s another story for another day though as the club’s goaltending and defense would also need to be thoroughly analyzed.
McDavid will get another kick at the can this season though when it comes to the Stanley Cup as Edmonton would have to suffer a monumental collapse down the stretch to miss the playoffs. In fact, they still have an outside shot of topping the North Division. And if McDavid does manage to finish the campaign with 100 points in 56 games he’ll become just the 10th NHL player to do it with Wayne Gretzky achieving it a staggering 11 times during his career.
It’s hard to find anything at all negative to say about McDavid’s 2020-21 season other than he’s playing the best hockey of his young life with no fans in the rink to witness it.