We all know Connor McDavid is an incredible talent. Perhaps even a once in a generation talent. What we are are only just beginning to learn is that maybe his leadership is also in that category.
In the midst of the lead up to the World Cup of Hockey, Team North America head coach Todd McLellan spoke of just why McDavid was appointed his captain despite being the second youngest in the side, and it had nothing to do with bias from the Edmonton Oilers’ head coach.
“The players told us,” McLellan said, “not verbally, but physically.”
Whilst McLellan was rather coy on why McDavid, just 19, was the captain the obvious captain of the side, teammate Mark Scheifele expanded on the topic.
“It’s not going up to the coach and saying, hey this guy should be captain. It’s the way the guys treat him. That’s the biggest thing.”
“It’s the way guys see Connor as a leader and see what he does on the ice and how he says the right things. They way he gets treated and how he treats others”.
What Scheifele is saying is that it didn’t really matter who McLellan was considering as captain. The North America players were following McDavid.
It is worth mentioning again that McDavid is younger than all but Auston Matthews on the team, who will likely spend most of the tournament on the lower lines.
“By no means am I the loudest guy in the room,” McDavid said, “but I try to lead by example on the ice and at practice. Of course, you pick a time and place to make your voice heard”.
It is perhaps that last quote that exemplifies why McDavid is not only an extraordinarily exciting young hockey player, but also an extraordinarily exciting young leader.
He understands what many far older than him fail to. Sometimes, it’s not what you say; it’s when you say it. It’s not often about how much you say, but how little.
Much short of starting a debate over whether leadership is born with or learned, McDavid makes a strong case for the former. He seems to have entered the league with it.
This is why McDavid is also being mentioned as the obvious candidate for the vacant Edmonton captaincy, despite, again, being the second youngest in the side.
Some of the most talented and greatest athletes of all-time have struggled with their leadership, which has seen them come up short on multiple occasions. LeBron James comes to mind.
The kind of respect and qualities this teenager from Richmond Hill, Ontario possess are perhaps the most exciting and potent of his vast skillset.
The Oilers are on the up big time, and when McDavid likely receives his captains’ armband this season, we will not only begin to see just how good a hockey player he is going to be, but what kind of an athlete, and what kind of a person.