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The amazing and difficult thing about McDavid
McDavid is one of the most challenging players to mesh with in the NHL. For one thing, he’s super fast, so you’ve got be either very smart or very fast to keep up with him. Slower players like Alex Chiasson, James Neal and Josh Archibald have struggled.
For another, he does his best work with the puck on his stick. He’s a solo performer extraordinaire. When he’s on the ice, the entire focus should be and is to get the puck on his stick so he can work his magic. But this means other players who thrive either carrying the puck and/or working clever passing plays tend to be somehwat wasted with McDavid.
It’s my contention that you’ll get far more out of players like Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, both in the clever passing category, by putting them together, than you will putting one of them with McDavid.
This isn’t a knock on McDavid. It’s an acknowledgment that for his line to do its best work, Edmonton will need to find support players to fit in with him, such as smart winger who goes up and down his wing, is solid on defence, crashes the net, doesn’t need the puck, but can still make a play.
Think of Patrick Maroon, who had some success with McDavid from 2015-18, or a player like Ryan Smyth in his best days with the Oilers. That kind of player doesn’t have to be a star. He doesn’t have to be expensive. But he’s got to know his role inside out and be able to execute it.
Another type that might fit in with McDavid? How about a sniper? Again, not a player who needs the puck, but one who can get open, find his spot, and fire in a goal if he gets the chance. I’m thinking of a winger like Steve Shutt back in the day, or Tyler Toffoli of Vancouver or Mike Hoffman of Florida. McDavid gets all kinds of pucks deep in the enemy zone. Paired with a sniper, they can do a lot of damage, as we saw at times when McDavid teamed up with Draisaitl.