Oilers management decide to rest McDavid in final two Young Stars Classic games

 

 
 
 
 
Connor McDavid signs autographs before the Edmonton Oilers prospects practice at the South Okanagan Events Centre in Penticton.
 

Connor McDavid signs autographs before the Edmonton Oilers prospects practice at the South Okanagan Events Centre in Penticton.

Photograph by: Shaughn Butts, Edmonton Journal

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Penticton, B.C. — Connor McDavid spent more time signing autographs than playing games at the Young Stars Classic, which meant only a sampler for fans who had bought tickets to the event.

The Edmonton Oilers’ management decided there was little to gain from McDavid playing all three games at the rookie tournament — dressing him last Friday night against the Vancouver Canucks’ rookies, then sitting him out against the Calgary Flames Saturday and Monday against the Winnipeg Jets.

It was a tough pill to swallow for fans in their No. 97 Oilers jerseys.

Unless he signed their jersey or their cap or a piece of paper.

And he did lots of that.

“When you’re a hockey player, who want to play whenever you get a chance, but it’s not my decision … it’s their choice,” said McDavid, who sat out the season finale in juniors with the Erie Otters in as a healthy scratch, but it’s rare stuff for a player people believe could be the next Wayne Gretzky.

“I sat out some junior games last year when I broke my hand, but that was about it,” he said.

McDavid was rattled by a heavy hit from Vancouver’s Jake Virtanen last Friday, but he was fine to play against Calgary or Winnipeg. The Oilers, who figure to play him in several NHL exhibitions, starting Sept. 21 against the Flames, decided he didn’t have to prove anything against kids.

“We made the decision (to just play him once) relatively early on,” said general manager Peter Chiarell, who made the call along with farm team coach Gerry Fleming, the head man for the Young Stars tournament.

“He’s going to play a lot of hockey (later) and this gives us an opportunity to see other kids.”

“No, he’s not hurt, he practised today (Sunday). He’s fine,” said Fleming, cognizant he took a wallop from Virtanen but he survived.

“If you look at that hit, Connor goes to hit him, and it’s just a collision,” said Fleming, who wouldn’t say if Darnell Nurse and Leon Draisaitl, the two best organizational prospects would play all three Young Stars’ games.

Chiarelli didn’t expect McDavid to take the decision well.

“Connor wasn’t very happy when I told him, but, like I said, he’s going to play a lot of hockey for us,” said Chiarelli.

Chiarelli said the upcoming Oilers rookie match against the University of Alberta Golden Bears on Wednesday at Rexall Place had a large bearing on his decision to rest McDavid at the Young Stars.

“It’s a good thing I’m playing Connor there (at Rexall Place) or there would be a riot,” he said.

Chiarelli gave McDavid a passing grade in his one game of the Young Stars tournament.

“I thought he was above average. He made five or six plays. He was good,” said Chiarelli.

He doesn’t know how many NHL pre-season games McDavid will play.

“We’ll see how it goes,” the GM said. “We’ve got some different line combinations and rosters made up for the first four or five games.”

McDavid played the one Young Stars’ game with Mitch Moroz and Greg Chase on his wing and had a goal and an assist in the 8-2 victory. Moroz got hurt in a fight with Vancouver’s huge prospect MacKenze Stewart late in the game, injuring his left hand.

“He’s out at least two weeks,” said Chiarelli.

Chase, who played with Leon Draisaitl in Game 2 and was much better than he was with McDavid, was hurt on his last shift in the 6-3 win over Calgary Saturday. They didn’t say what body part Chase hurt, but he’s only day-to-day.

For McDavid, though he only played once, the trip was well worth it.

“Any chance you get on the road with new people, you’ll get to know them better and that was certainly the case here,” he said. “We’ve become a lot closer and it’s fun to build relationships.”

McDavid is looking forward to the Bears’ game at Rexall Place Wednesday, which may draw as many as 12,000. “It’ll be a pretty packed house. I looked at the record in this game and they might actually have a better record than the Oilers rookies. They won the national championship last year,” he said.

ON THE BENCH — Goalie Eetu Laurikainen will play the whole game against the Winnipeg Jets’ prospects Monday. He started against Vancouver and was perfect, stopping all 16 shots in half a game … Brandon Wheat Kings’ tryout goalie Jordan Papirny, who played against Calgary, was very sharp. “I thought he was the No. 1 star. Kept us in the game in the first period (19 shots, two goals against),” said Fleming.

 
 
 
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Connor McDavid signs autographs before the Edmonton Oilers prospects practice at the South Okanagan Events Centre in Penticton.
 

Connor McDavid signs autographs before the Edmonton Oilers prospects practice at the South Okanagan Events Centre in Penticton.

Photograph by: Shaughn Butts, Edmonton Journal

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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