TORONTO – Connor McDavid has an opportunity to help Team Canada capture a gold medal at a world junior hockey championship for the first time since 2009 when the Canadians meet the Russians on Monday.
However, the top rated prospect for June’s NHL Draft admitted following Sunday’s semifinal victory over Slovakia that this opportunity was in doubt.
McDavid suffered a fractured bone in his right hand during a fight in an Ontario Hockey League game on Nov. 11. The initial diagnosis pegged the 17-year-old to miss 5-6 weeks.
At the time of the injury he had 16 goals and 51 points in 18 games.
“I mean there’s always moments of doubt. Even when the doctor said kind of at the beginning it’s going to be close, there’s a couple weeks where you don’t know and then kind of at the end you realize it’s going to be a possibility,” said McDavid. “It was a long, long recovery, but it feels good to be where we are today.”
McDavid had two goals and five assists through the first five games of the tournament.
He added three assists as Canada defeated Slovakia 5-1 Sunday to advance to Monday’s final.
“I think I’ve been getting better each and every game,” he said. “It’s just natural when you’re missing that much time. I’ve never come back from an injury as a hockey player. It’s really hard to explain and it’s weird when you first get back, but I thought it’s been getting better.”
A visit to the doctors early in the recovery process had McDavid hopeful that he’d return in time for the Boxing Day start of the tournament.
“Kind of around the one week mark of the injury, week and a half. I went back for a check up and the doctor said it was already healing faster than he would’ve expected,” said McDavid. “That’s obviously good news. Long, but not as long as it could’ve been.”
McDavid finally returned to action in an exhibition game for Team Canada on Dec. 21 – 39 days after suffering the injury.
“The game feels different, everything happens really fast especially jumping into a world juniors,” said McDavid of the biggest adjustment. “A lot of stuff happens fast. Just the speed of the game, stuff happens fast.”
Monday will likely be McDavid’s one and only shot at a gold medal at the U-20 tournament. He’s eligible to play at both the 2016 world juniors and the 2017 tournament; however, chances are the NHL club, which selects him in June won’t be releasing him.