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Connor McDavid likely to miss entire preseason for Edmonton Oilers

Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid celebrates his goal during second period NHL hockey action against the Ottawa Senators in Edmonton, Saturday, March 23, 2019.
Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid celebrates his goal during second period NHL hockey action against the Ottawa Senators in Edmonton, Saturday, March 23, 2019.

The probably of seeing Connor McDavid in a preseason game this year is not good, according to Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland.

Speaking at an availability following the Oilers’ annual Barry Katz Media Tournament at the Edmonton Country Club on Wednesday, Holland said the team was going to be patient with the star centre, who sustained a knee injury in the final game of the regular season in April against the Calgary Flames.

McDavid tore the PCL in his left knee crashing into the net after being tripped by Flames defenceman Mark Giordano.

Holland was asked how many preseason games he would ideally like to see McDavid play before the start of the regular season, Oct. 2 against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Place.

“If he was healthy, probably two or three, but obviously it’s a unique situation,” Holland said. “Now one at most, but it’s very likely zero. We’ve got three weeks to go and we’re going to be conservative. I’d rather be safe than sorry, if he’s not ready for opening night, then he’s not ready for opening night.”

McDavid began skating informally with his teammates this past Saturday. The Oilers open training camp with medicals and physicals Thursday and will be on the ice for the first time Friday.

The Oilers host the Winnipeg Jets in their first preseason game Monday, one of four scheduled for next week. They will play seven preseason games in total.

Going into his fifth season with the Oilers, McDavid already has two NHL scoring titles and a Hart Trophy as NHL MVP. He had a career-high 41 goals and 116 points last season, finishing second in the scoring race to Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov, who had 41 points and 128 points.

McDavid did not require surgery on the injury and spent most of the off-season rehabilitating his knee.

“He was obviously in Toronto all summer, he’s got a group of people there that were working with him on his rehab,” Holland said. “I got constant videos, one or two videos a week, of him skating and training and our training staff and our doctors were in communication. We had some conference calls in May and June and then they communicated our staff with their staff and I think everything we’ve heard all along has been positive.”

McDavid does not look limited in his informal skates with his teammates this past week, yet the Oilers are willing to wait before putting him in game situations.

“You’ve seen him skate. He’s involved, he’s scrimmaging and he’s doing things, three-on-three down low, so I think he’s in a great spot,” Holland said. “But we might as well be conservative and safe.”

EVAN BOUCHARD IN TOUGH TO CRACK ROSTER

Evan Bouchard made a good account of himself last season in the seven games with the Oilers before being returned to the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League.

The 19-year-old defenceman, who turns 20 in October, is going to have to make an even bigger impression on Holland to stick with the Oilers out of training camp this season.

“My philosophy is always to be very patient with young players,” Holland said. “I did put Dylan Larkin on the Detroit Red Wings when he was 19, so for every rule there’s an exception.

“I thought he (Bouchard) played very well the two rookie games. I think he was our best-conditioned athlete by all the testing of the rookies, so he’s put his work in, in the summer. I want to see him play in preseason.”

Bouchard was selected by the Oilers with the 10th overall pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. He had a goal in his seven games with Edmonton before registering 16 goals and 53 points in 45 games with London. Bouchard played in the World Junior Championships for Canada and then finished the season with the Bakersfield Condors in the AHL, scoring three goals and collecting eight points in eight playoff games.

Bouchard will have plenty of competition trying to earn one of the final roster spots on the blue line.

“Obviously, we’re going to carry seven (defencemen), but he’s not fighting for the seventh spot, he’s fighting for the sixth spot,” Holland said. “My philosophy always is, as you’re putting the roster together, I’ll say to the head coach; ‘Tell me who is playing tomorrow,’ and if a young player is not in the lineup, he’s going to the American League. If he’s in the lineup, we’ll have a further conversation of where he fits.

“I’d rather make the call during the season to call a player up, than to make the call during the season to send a player down. I think it’s easier on their mind and mentality to be working their way up than down. Young players have to take the job from a veteran.”

Email: dvandiest@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @DerekVanDiest

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