No. 1 pick McDavid ready to focus on being hockey player for Otters
Apr 13, 2012 (Erie Times-News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
The fanfare won't seem quite as overwhelming when Connor McDavid returns to Erie in two weeks.
The OHL Priority Selection behind him, along with constant attention surrounding the league's most talked-about prospect in several years, McDavid can refocus on being a hockey player again.
He can regain a sense of normalcy on and off the ice, even for someone expected to be the face of the Otters' rebuilding effort.
"I'm really looking forward to that," McDavid said April 6, the day he was introduced as the No. 1 pick during a draft party at the Bayfront Convention Center. He will attend the Otters' awards banquet April 29 at the Bayfront. But this time, he will stand alongside the team's 2012 draft class. Even before that, he will join other Otters' prospects at a rookie orientation camp April 27-28 at Mercyhurst Ice Center.
"I'm just really excited for everything to start happening," said McDavid, 15, a native of Newmarket, Ontario.
Hockey Canada, the sport's national governing body, granted McDavid exceptional player status March 21. Since then, a spotlight has followed him everywhere.
McDavid faced a news conference about his newly appointed status that same day, even though he felt ill and was on a family vacation in Montreal. On April 6, he was the center of attention among roughly 150 of the Otters' corporate partners and season-ticket holders at the draft party. The next day, he faced the news media in Toronto after being officially announced as the No. 1 pick.
He was a hot topic on Twitter and an instant celebrity among Otters fans on Facebook.
Yet hockey always has been McDavid's priority.
"It's just his passion," his mother, Kelly, said, "and his drive keeps him going."
The Otters' first offseason workout allows McDavid to begin preparing for his first OHL season without many outside distractions. At this point, he said, he will feel more comfortable with hard work on and off the ice than the attention he will face around the league.
"I'll take care of the on-ice part," he said.
Sherry Bassin, Otters managing partner and general manager, is impressed with McDavid's ability to quickly refocus on honing his skills despite everything going on around him. McDavid adapts well to every situation, Bassin said.
"Everyone can tell you about his ability. I can tell you what I saw in his character," Bassin said. "That's why he's going to be the player he is, because of his character. When you put character together with ability, you usually get a star."
McDavid will start the 2012-13 season in September as the OHL's youngest player. Exceptional status allowed him to enter the draft a year ahead of his age-based draft year. "I'm sure the family was excited," Bassin said. "But I can tell you they weren't any more excited than we were."
Hockey Canada's ruling has made the worst season in Otters' history easier to bear.
"I'm glad that it unfolded (the way it did) in order to get this guy," Bassin said. "I'm not upset about our season because of the results."
Bassin said McDavid is "the kind of guy that can lead you to championships." Now Bassin needs to continue building a strong team because, he said, "we've got an honest chance to win something with him. We're not just getting a special player; we're getting a special person."
That's a lot of pressure for McDavid to face. Focusing on hockey will help him handle it.
"No one is harder on me than me," he said.
VICTOR FERNANDES can be reached at 870-1716 or by e-mail. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/goeriehockey. Read the Shootout hockey blog at GoErie.com/blogs/shootout and post comments.
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