Connor McDavid Granted Exceptional Player Status

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Connor McDavid granted exceptional player status

Connor McDavid is on his way to the Ontario Hockey League at the age of 15. But where will he play? As soon as McDavid been granted exceptional player status by Hockey Canada on Wednesday, speculation now begins about his willingness to join the Erie Otters, or the Hamilton Otters, holding the No. 1 pick for the April 7 OHL draft. McDavid follows Keegan Iverson who recently left his high school team for the WHL.

McDavid and his parents recently travelled to Erie, Pa., and met with general manager Sherry Bassin and other members of the Otters organization. However they remained non-committal about whether their son would be willing to move nearly 250 miles away from their home in Newmarket, Ont. Does the influence of McDavid’s home in Ontario play any part in the future of the Otters and a potential move?

McDavid is the prime target of nearly every team in the OHL draft, because of his immense talent and the fact he isn’t eligible for the NHL draft until 2015. The teenager is just the third player to be granted exceptional status over the last decade, following defenceman Aaron Ekblad last season and centre John Tavares in 2005.

The main reason Hockey Canada was given control of the exceptional status process a couple years ago was to make sure a player’s best interest were taken to heart.

In applying for exceptional status, McDavid and his parents handed in paperwork to the OHF ahead of the Feb. 15 deadline, setting in motion an extensive review that included everything from interviews and psychological examinations to the submission of reports from teachers, hockey coaches and scouts.

There is no doubting his McDavid’s skill. He was also named MVP of the OHL Cup Showcase Tournament.

The idea of allowing 15 year olds to play major junior hockey remains controversial in some circles, although players such as Jason Spezza, Jay Bouwmeester and Tavares all moved on to the NHL after being given that opportunity. Ekblad’s first season with the Barrie Colts was considered a success both on and off the ice. One scout credited coach Dale Hawerchuk for putting him in a position to succeed and Ekblad responded with 29 points in 63 games.

An extra complication in McDavid’s case with the Otters is the uncertainty around the organization. Rumors persist they could be on the move to Hamilton — although those may have been squashed earlier this week when Bassin agreed in principle on a two-year lease extension for Tullio Arena in Erie.

Does Erie pick him? Easily yes. Will the Otters be in Erie or Hamilton? That is still up in the air until the lease is signed.

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