Connor McDavid gears up for tough bike test
Connor McDavid wants to blend in as just another draft-eligible prospect when he takes part in the physical testing portion of the NHL combine this weekend. (REUTERS)
Contrary to popular belief, Connor McDavid does have something to prove at this weekend’s NHL scouting combine in Buffalo.
The consensus No. 1 pick and ‘generational’ player wants to show he’s just one of the guys, going through his difficult physical testing like most of the 100-plus draft-eligible players here. That includes the dreaded V02 max bike endurance.
“It’s a good opportunity for me to show what I can do off the ice,” McDavid told the Postmedia Network. “Obviously, the V02 is not the most fun thing to do, but everyone has to go through it. Ten minutes is long, but I’ll battle through it.”
If you’re nit-picking for holes in McDavid’s skill set, wondering if an 18-year-old can possibly be this good on so many levels, conditioning during an 82-game schedule will not likely be his weak spot. At the PEAC school for elite athletes in Toronto, he was doing dryland training in Grade 7 in addition to being on the ice. He wore a 50-pound flak jacket on a treadmill, in his spare time, and in addition to keeping himself in top shape during junior hockey, he worked with Gary Roberts’ Bio-Steel fitness zealots. So a hard pedal shouldn’t faze him.
“At PEAC, they did a lot of the same things,” McDavid said.
The most recent superstar to come through Edmonton made white Titan sticks and flimsy-looking Jofa helmets iconic without much marketing effort.
But McDavid is not arriving to the Oilers — and the greater world hockey stage — without promotional fanfare. Three weeks before he’s formally drafted No. 1, McDavid and CCM/Reebok announced Monday a multi-year head-to-toe equipment deal. From the financial side, it’s likely worth a couple of million dollars as a new generation of hockey fans tries and emulate what he shoots with, what’s covering his head and propelling his feet.
But he will also be targeted for physical abuse.
“It’s not about the money. He needs products that deliver first.” said Sean Williams, vice-president of sales and marketing for CCM. “Some players try things out for tweaks or adjustments, but Connor likes his equipment as is. We stay close, we want him feeling comfortable and safe because that’s when you perform your best.
“We know what he likes across the gamut (he and the company did business before). If he has unique needs, if his tastes change, he’ll tell us about it.”
McDavid uses a Tacks stick, but could debut in October with one of the company’s new models. Sidney Crosby and Carey Price have Eastern markets covered for CCM.
“Edmonton is an important hockey market in Canada and Connor will help our Canadian presence,” Williams added.
“If Connor excels like we all hope he will, he could have a broader (global) impact.”
The draft in Florida from June 26-27 is going to be one of the best classes in NHL history, based on McDavid and other big names near the top and some second-round talent. But there are sure to be some underrated players to emerge in coming years.
“You’re always surprised by kids who get overlooked early on and become really good players,” said Jeff Jackson, former NHLer, assistant general manager of the Maple Leafs and now representing players with the Orr Hockey Group. “Connor Brown is a kid the Leafs drafted in the sixth round and he went on to be the CHL’s leading scorer and (this year) among the top AHL rookies.
“A lot of great kids at this draft are not here because of (lower) ratings, but who will end up being very good players. It happens every year and it’s fun to see.”
T-shirt spotted around Buffalo: “I like Eich”, an endorsement for college forward and expected No. 2 overall pick Jack Eichel, seen as the consolation prize for the Buffalo Sabres who lost the chance to land McDavid in the draft lottery ... How McDavid found out about life in the big time: A promotional video for his new equipment deal required 10 minutes to get the perfect camera angle on his shin-pad tape ... Team interviews with prospective draft picks continue at the First Niagara Centre, while the combine testing begins Friday and Saturday. Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher estimates he and his staff will meet with about 70 players by Saturday. “The kids are great. They’re so much more worldly than a few years ago,” Fletcher said ... The larger facilities for this year’s testing, a change from two decades at an airport hotel in Toronto, have their pluses and minuses for teams and agents. “You don’t have the industry in one spot,” said Jackson. “You don’t get the conversations in the lobby with the GMs about the free agents you’re going to have in a few weeks, or about the draft. But it’s nice to be out of Toronto for a change and in a nice facility. This can grow hockey a little bit and Toronto doesn’t really need that.”