On Wednesday night, in an important 3-2 victory over the Winnipeg Jets, Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid hit the first statistical checkpoint on the road to the Hockey Hall of Fame. The best, most electrifying forward on the planet hit 500 career points only a handful of games into his sixth season, fittingly reaching the milestone in the exact same number of starts — 369 —as the last titanic prospect to enter the NHL, Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby.
Together, McDavid and Crosby are the eighth-fastest players in history to clear the 500-point hurdle, trailing a collection of incredible talents who feasted on the friendlier scoring conditions of previous eras.
But the two also share one other commonality in this very specific statistical milestone: though only few have done it faster, it took longer than it should have for both McDavid and Crosby to hit 500 points due to circumstances outside their control.
And in McDavid's case in particular, it's what he's had to endure and persevere through in five-plus seasons that makes reaching the milestone that much more impressive.
It's been interruption after interruption for the 24-year-old through the first stage of his hockey career, with some specific to him and others not. He's suffered many small injuries as well as a handful of gravely serious ones, including a knee injury that threatened to divert the trajectory of his career.
Through it all, he's just remained indefatigably productive. When McDavid was producing at a point per game to begin his rookie season before breaking his collar bone crashing into the boards on one of his patented fearless drives toward the net, he came back and only improved on those numbers. When one of the major ligaments in his knee snapped from the blunt force of a goal post on the final game of his most productive season at that time, and one of the most chancy rehabilitations in hockey history carried through the summer months and into training camp the following season, McDavid miraculously made the opening night lineup, improving on his career-best numbers with improved average production in a season cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Whether his rhythm is broken up or not, when McDavid's been on NHL ice, he's consistently scored at an unmatched level of production in which he's already improving on.
It almost seemed fitting that McDavid's ride or die, Leon Draisaitl, also hit a round number in the win over Winnipeg. One the few players who has been able to hang in McDavid's production orbit (though partly only through his association with McDavid) reached 450 points for his career with his latest multi-point effort.
Though he can be mentioned in the same breath today, Draisaitl trails his teammate by a significant chunk of points, while appearing in 81 more games, or essentially a full regular season.
The best players in the world travel along a curve, McDavid included. But his start point is the apex for most players relied on to produce for their teams, and his influence only ever grows stronger with every NHL game he plays.
It won't be long before we're reflecting on 1,000, interruptions be damned.
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