Connor McDavid is a man on a goal-scoring mission.
Coming off a season in which the third-year Edmonton Oilers center racked up a career-high 41 goals and 108 points—including a league-leading 84 at even-strength—McDavid expressed a desire to post even bigger goal totals as he begins the first season of an eight-year, $100 million contract extension.
"I’ve always said I want to score more," he said at BioSteel Camp on Monday. "That’s what I want to do. I want to find ways to score. I think I’m a good passer and can make plays and all that, but there’s definitely a knack to putting the puck in the net that I seemed to find a little bit later in the year last year and I’m hoping to carry that into this year."
McDavid scored 16 goals during an injury-shortened, 45-game rookie season and posted 30 more as a sophomore. A 26-goal tear in the last 33 games of the 2017-18 season helped McDavid capture the Art Ross trophy as the league’s leading scorer, but the Oilers fell short of the postseason, 17 points behind the Colorado Avalanche for the second wild card in the West. That led to changes in the Edmonton staff behind coach Todd McLellan.
“We have to go in and work hard,” McDavid told reporters. “I think the only thing that really changes is just that bitter taste in everyone’s mouth at where we finished and where we left off last year.”
How much of that taste remains in McDavid’s mouth is apparent in his want to score more goals—something he’ll have to do with a largely unchanged roster in Edmonton.
"I think there’s always ways to improve your game and ways to be more dangerous and dynamic and I’m hoping to do that this year," McDavid said. "We didn’t want to go in and blow it up. [GM Peter Chiarelli] has always said if there’s a move to be made he was going to make it, and if there wasn’t then we keep it all together.
“It leaves a very bad taste in your mouth all summer,” defenseman Darnell Nurse, also at BioSteel Camp, said. “We didn’t have that hunger that we had the year before that made us so successful … it’ll be good to have that back.”
Edmonton was largely quiet in the free agent market this summer, adding depth forwards Tobias Rieder and Kyle Brodziak and defenseman Jakub Jerabek, but will have to address the loss of defenseman Andrej Sekera, who suffered a knee injury during offseason training that will keep him out long-term. It will be a team effort for the Oilers, who haven’t be afraid to trade some of their young stars and heavily invest in others. Nurse, still awaiting a contract ahead of training camp, knows that it can’t all be on McDavid, despite his still-growing superstar status.
“As much as his personal success was great, I know there’s no part of him that was really satisfied with the way that the team went,” Nurse said. “The type of hunger that he shows and his willingness to do whatever it takes to win, we all have to feed off that. It’s crazy we have a season like we did and he’s able to produce the way he did, but it’s going to be important for everyone to pick up some slack.”