weather icon Partly Cloudy
RJ App
Vegas News, Alerts, ePaper

Connor McDavid comparisons unfair to Knights’ Jack Eichel

The storylines are plentiful and not just about the power play of the Edmonton Oilers.

Which, of course, is frightening.

But one sidebar to the clash that is Edmonton against the Golden Knights in a best-of-seven series that begins Wednesday at T-Mobile Arena dates some nine years.

It returns us to the 2015 NHL draft and its top two selections — centers Connor McDavid to Edmonton and Jack Eichel to Buffalo. It was never a question who the two best players were. Now, as everyone has seemingly waited for since that moment, they will meet in a playoff series for the first time.

The comparisons will be revisited. That’s beyond unfair to Eichel.

The world’s best

There is McDavid and everyone else. He’s up here, and the rest are somewhere beneath him. The world’s best player and many, many elite ones like Eichel.

McDavid this season: 153 points, including 64 goals. He’s just 26.

Sort of absurd, really.

“I think, obviously, Connor is on his own, and that’s no disrespect to Jack,” Knights coach Bruce Cassidy said. “It’s great for Jack to have an opportunity to play against the best. Whether it’s fair to Jack or not, it doesn’t matter. It’s playoff hockey. That’s what is on the table for him.

“Our team needs to outplay the Oilers. It’s not Jack against McDavid. That’s an impossible ask. But when he’s on the ice, I’m sure that’s going through Jack’s head — ‘I need to be better than this guy.’ It’s not an easy thing to do, but that’s what is in front of us.”

Eichel, traded to the Knights in November 2021, is polite when asked about the specific matchup between him and McDavid. Just doesn’t want to talk about it.

Eichel just concluded the first playoff series of his career — a 4-1 series spanking of Winnipeg — in which he totaled five points. He scored twice in Game 3.

“We’re all past the 2015 draft,” he said. “It has been a couple years, right? (McDavid) has gone on to do some incredible things. But it’s two teams going at it in this series. That’s the way I’m going to look at it, and I’m sure that’s the way everyone feels.”

It is for all the Golden Knights.

And they’re embracing it. Feeding off it, even.

And they should.

The Oilers are favored to win this second-round series at your sportsbook of choice, but lest we forget which side captured the Pacific Division and earned the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.

It wasn’t the team of McDavid and teammate Leon Draisaitl.

So much is made — for good reason — of the duo. The offensive firepower. The incredible skill. The finishing touch.

But depth has delivered the Knights to this point, and there’s no reason to believe it can’t make a huge difference this time.

Structure. Forecheck. Time and space. Puck management. Limiting penalties. Clears. Faceoffs. Control entries.

They are the key words every last Golden Knights player used this week when explaining how best to deal with the Oilers and the likes of McDavid and Draisaitl. How to slow them. How to best deal with all that firepower. How to make that power play not as frightening.

A definite strength

A sure thing: The Knights have the bodies to make it work.

“We trust our depth to play against anybody,” said defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who captained St. Louis to a Stanley Cup title in 2019. “Every team, the further you go, is going to have depth. I’ve been there — the longer you play (in the postseason), the energy runs out, and you’re playing everybody and you need everybody to contribute in all situations.”

It’s their strength.

It’s why they won a division title and No. 1 seed.

This is about depth against star power.

This isn’t about Jack Eichel against Connor McDavid.

Although the latter makes for one heck of a sidebar.

Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

Don't miss the latest VGK news. Like our Golden Edge page