Overreactions: Believe the hype. McDavid shines, Otters defeat IceDogs in Buffalo
It should’ve been expected.
For many in Buffalo feeling conflicted about the merit of the tanking that’s totally not going on this season, tonight was the first glimpse at the prize waiting to be claimed: Connor McDavid.
And the Erie Otters forward showed why.
In front of a large crowd at First Niagara Center (announced at 11,391 and realistically around 9,000), McDavid and his teammates put on a show, with Erie defeating the Niagara IceDogs by an 8-4 final.
The first period was enough for people to see, as McDavid tallied three assists and showed his flare on almost every shift, propelling the Otters to a 4-2 lead. He’d add a goal in the third to push his point total through the first 10 games of the season to 29 (9+20), extending his league lead.
McDavid’s linemate Alex DeBrincat (2016 Draft eligible) scored twice, as did Kurtis MacDermid (LA Kings free agent signing). Troy Donnay, Patrick Murphy and Shaun Bily also scored for the Otters, who sit 9-0-0-1 on the season.
Niagara’s Jordan Maletta (undrafted) had two goals, while Graham Knott (2016 Draft eligible) and Cody Payne also scored for the visitors from across the border.
Buffalo native Stephen Dhillon ended up getting cleanup duty in the IceDogs’ goal, stopping 11 of 13 shots in 27:09, just his second OHL appearance.
Some thoughts on the night:
- I’ve seen Connor McDavid play four times. He has 15 points in those four games. This was an average night for him. It’s incredible.
- Lots of talk about Erie’s Dylan Strome (who could also be a top-5 pick in this summer’s draft) heading into tonight, warning fans not to forget about him. To be honest, he looked solid, you can see the talent, but he was unremarkable. Hard to stand out when you’ve got #97 on your team, but he reminded me of the times I saw Niagara’s Brendan Perlini last season. Perlini was targeted as a top 10 pick, and went in the first round to Phoenix, but never really stood out or showed star quality. I’m sure I’ll see Strome again, but first impression wasn’t great.
- One play tonight that demonstrated what a different level that McDavid is on happened in the first period. No, it wasn’t him blowing down the ice, crossing up a defenseman and making a sweet move on the goaltender. Gliding along the wall, just outside his own zone, a pass from a defenseman came from the opposite corner of Erie’s end. Instead of coming back, receiving the puck and looking to make a play, he turned away from the pass and let it bank off the boards. He knew where the puck was headed and went up ice to receive it. A simple, intelligent play that 99% of players at any level wouldn’t be thinking to make. The guy just has “it.”
- Pretty cool for everyone who will never touch the NHL to get to play a game like this in an NHL rink.
- Otters forward Nick Betz will end up getting a pro contract based on a year of playing with McDavid consistently. Not that he doesn’t deserve it, because his play on the second Erie goal was phenomenal. It’s just the McDavid bump.
- Same thing with Erie’s Alex DeBrincat. Kid is 16. He’s got 13 goals on the season through 10 games. He’s going to be a stud.
- Nice game for Niagara’s Jordan Maletta. Two goals from a guy that probably should’ve been drafted last year. He’s a hell of a player.
- Shoutout to the Buffalo Sabres for making this happen. It was a fantastic night, and a great thing for hockey in Buffalo, as well as the two local OHL teams. Niagara’s new rink isn’t far from the border, and Erie is an hour and change down the 90. It’s great hockey, and people are missing out if they don’t catch a game or two. Let’s make this a regular thing.
3MI Three Star Selections
1. Connor McDavid, Erie
2. Kurtis MacDermid, Erie
3. Nick Betz, Erie
Official Three Stars of the Game
1. Connor McDavid, Erie (Goal (9), 3 assists)
2. Alex DeBrincat, Erie (2 goals (13), assist)
3. Kurtis MacDermid, Erie (2 goals (2))