The Athletic has high expectations for Connor McDavid this season, but they’re asking a lot of the Edmonton Oilers superstar centre.
Ahead of the weekend’s just completed action, The Athletic made one bold prediction for each of the NHL’s 32 teams. (Subscription required.) This obviously included the Edmonton Oilers.
Now we appreciate the key word in these prediction scenarios is ‘bold’. In other words, while theoretically achievable given the respective talent involved, they still require an awful lot of luck and almost a perfect storm to come to fruition.
Regardless, The Athletic‘s prediction in respect of the Oilers still seems like a tall order. More specifically, that Connor McDavid will become the first 70-goal scorer since the 1992-93 season, when both Teemu Selanne and Alex Mogilny had an eye-popping 76 goals.
A tough act to follow
Now don’t get us wrong – McDavid is coming off his best season yet in the NHL, which significantly included 64 goals. He won his first Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy, with a goal total just one short of Alexander Ovechkin’s salary cap era record of 65.
In addition, the five-time Art Ross Trophy winner is only just entering his prime. He’s also still improving, which is a scary proposition for the rest of the league.
Overall, there is no denying McDavid is the best player in the game today. And yet, the prediction of a 70-goal season in 2023-24 still, while not outlandish, seems unlikely.
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The Athletic did reference the 26-year-old’s career-high 352 shots on goal last season. Along these lines, in the way, way, way too early projections through two games, he’s on course for 410 in 2023-24.
However, as also indicated, McDavid scored on a career-high 18.2 percent of his shots, which often alludes to pending regression. Not even a generational talent such as the Oilers centre is immune to such potential scenarios.
When generosity could actually work against McDavid
Even as a positive in generally, one of the reasons why the 70-goal mark will likely prove elusive for the six-time All-Star, is because of his penchant for getting everyone else involved. Yes, he has seven consecutive seasons of 30+ goals, but just under 65 percent of his career points total has come via assists.
Interestingly, there was discussion of McDavid possibly reaching 70 goals last season, as he had 60 with 10 games to go. Ultimately though, he ‘only’ scored four more times in the 2022-23 regular season.
Ultimately, let’s be clear in stating there would be zero issue with being proven wrong when it comes to an outcome where the Oilers superstar scores 70 goals. However, his main focus will be – quite rightly — on getting the team back on the winning track and qualifying for the playoffs.
Despite the 0-2 start to this season, the Oilers still have arguably the best roster of the McDavid era in Edmonton. His focus is on finally winning a Stanley Cup, and if he happens to score 70 goals in the process, this will just be a nice plus for him alongside the ultimate goal in hockey.