Connor McDavid is still healing from a knee injury suffered during the Edmonton Oilers’ regular-season finale last April, but the club’s captain is optimistic about being ready for Oilers’ training camp in mid-September.
“[I’m] progressing well. Making progress every day,” McDavid said Monday from BioSteel’s annual summer camp at the University of Toronto in his first extended remarks about the injury since the spring. “Just working hard to get to camp and focus on that. [This off-season] has been different, just focusing on that [rehab]. It’s taking a lot of time, but it’s been good.”
McDavid said Monday that he started skating again “a couple of months ago” and has suffered no setbacks, but still opted not to participate in the on-ice portion of the BioSteel camp this week. The 22-year-old is continuing on his own program, working out with former NHLer Gary Roberts and doing the “usual” things he would at this point in the summer.
“I’m doing my own thing,” McDavid shrugged. “And [I] just need to focus on that right now…on my rehab and on the injury itself. It’s tough to focus on anything else.”
The star centre had been having a terrific season before the injury happened, amassing the second-most points in the NHL with 116 (41 goals, 75 assists). While McDavid’s goal of being a full participant in Oilers’ training camp is paramount, he’s cognizant of not pushing too hard before he’s fully healthy.
“It’s coming back together and everything like that, but ultimately you don’t want to come back too early,” he said. "Make sure it’s fully healed and you’re not going to get hurt again. But I’m not too worried about that either.”
When McDavid and the Oilers do reconvene next month, there will be plenty of new faces. General manager Peter Chiarelli was fired in January and in May the team announced first-year head coach Ken Hitchcock would not return for another campaign. Ken Holland was eventually hired to replace Chiarelli, and he immediately lured Dave Tippet behind the Oilers’ bench.
McDavid said he and Tippet had dinner a couple weeks ago (“It was good, nothing too serious”) and shared his initial reaction to Holland joining the organization was “just excitement.”
“He’s a guy who’s been in the league for a long time and put together those great teams, those Detroit dynasties,” McDavid said, referencing Holland’s 36 years in the Red Wings’ fold over which the team won three Stanley Cups while he was GM. “I was definitely excited about it.”
The Richmond Hill, Ont., native was less enthused to see Holland trade his good friend Milan Lucic to the Calgary Flames in July, acquiring James Neal in a swap of struggling veteran players trying to reignite their games with a change of scenery.
Lucic had previously signed a seven-year, $42 million contract with Edmonton in 2016 but never lived up to the deal, posting just six goals and 14 assists in 79 games during his final season with the Oilers. Neal signed a five-year, $28 million pact with the Flames in 2018, only to post the lowest goal total of his 11-year career (seven) in 2018-19.
“[It’s] obviously disappointing to see a good friend in Luc go,” McDavid said of the trade. “He’s someone I got close with on the team, a great guy, great family as well. Neal has a lot of upside. He’s a guy who’s won a lot in this league, he’s scored a lot in this league and obviously a down year last year but he’s training up at Gary’s and he’s working as hard as I’ve ever seen him work. So it’s good.”
McDavid anticipates they’ll be plenty of competition for roster spots when Oilers’ camp opens, where newcomers Neal, Tomas Jurco, Markus Granlund and Mike Smith could all be part of the potential puzzle turning the team around.
“It’s going to be whoever steps up and takes a job,” McDavid said. “I don’t know who it will be and it doesn’t matter, as long as they can play and are good to go. I’m looking forward to it. I’m excited about the new additions and where the young guys are at.”