No better time to fall for hockey

It’s a great time to become a hockey fanatic in Erie, Pa.

The Erie Otters have jumped out to an impressive 13-0-0-1 start to the season while leading the Ontario Hockey League with 27 points. Erie has three forwards ranking in the top four in OHL offensive production who have fueled its near perfect start. Connor McDavid, Dylan Strome and Alex DeBrincat have been lighting up score sheets.

McDavid, 17, is the league’s points leader with 42 (14 goals, 28 assists) in 14 games and DeBrincat, 16, is the OHL’s top goal scorer with 15. Strome, 17, currently sits in the second in the league in points with 33 (12 goals, 21 assists).

The 17-year-olds will headline the Otters’ representation in the 2015 National Hockey League draft and DeBrincat is eligible in 2016.

The Otters have also had exceptional play between the pipes from both goaltenders. Devin Williams is the starting goalie with a 9-0-0-1 record in net and Daniel Dekoning sports a 4-0-0-0 mark as the backup.

I accompanied 4,415 others to Erie Insurance Arena Saturday to watch some gifted young players showcase their potential.

The Otters extended their win streak to seven games with a 7-4 victory over the Ottawa 67s. The defense was shaky at times, but Dekoning made key saves to secure the win for Erie. The game was filled with nonstop action and featured 11 goals.

The combination of a dynamic offense, a young defense that is susceptible to playing inconsistently and strong goaltending make for an exciting high-scoring product and a good reason to give being a hockey fan a shot. Students can use Gannon IDs to receive discounted $12 tickets.

Strome netted two goals, McDavid buried one and assisted on three and DeBrincat scored one and added two helpers in the win over the 67s.

The Gannon community should take advantage of the opportunity to watch McDavid, the Otters captain, before he is selected first overall in the 2015 draft.

The Newmarket, Ontario, native is used to being selected as a top prospect. He was drafted first overall by the Otters in the 2012 when he was only 15 years old.

OHL draft eligibility is reserved for 16-year-old players, but the 6-foot-1 standout was granted an exception by the league after being named Greater Toronto Hockey League’s player of the year in 2011. He scored 72 points (33 goals, 39 assists) in 33 games.

He is visibly the best player each time he hits the ice and in the process makes everything look effortless.

McDavid makes his linemates better while developing into an elite passer. He almost defers to his teammates on scoring opportunities to a fault. He had two chances to score goals Saturday and decided to pass instead. Both ended in Ottawa saves.

All that being said, it’s difficult to criticize his game while he dominates and remains humble. It is also a reassuring sign for potential NHL destinations in need of a franchise player that he received the William Hanley Trophy in 2014, which is awarded to the OHL’s Most Sportsmanlike Player.

Exhibiting being a leader and showing respect to opponents while being an elite prospect shows that he will develop into a leader in the NHL. In Saturday’s contest McDavid and his teammates sported the Otters third jersey, which closely resembles the Buffalo Sabres’ new alternative sweater.

He sure did look good in blue and gold.

I will be attending the Sabres’ game against Pittsburgh Saturday in Buffalo, and it could be a disappointing result given the tough 5-0 loss to Penguins Saturday in Pittsburgh. But even though the Sabres are off to a rough start, things don’t seem so gloomy when the possibility of McDavid awaits.

The Otters will return home on Friday against Sarnia and Saturday against Saginaw.

CONNOR SONDEL

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