There’s a famous Frank Sinatra song where he sings “the best is yet to come”. That song makes us feel confident like our best days and accomplishments are ahead of us. It also perfectly defines Connor McDavid’s NHL career so far.
You’ve probably heard the following stat before since NHL.com brought it up in every article they wrote for the Edmonton Oilers as part of their “32 in 32” series.
Last season, McDavid finished with 153 points which was the most an NHL player has had since Mario Lemieux had 161 in the 1995-1996 season. NHL.com’s fantasy projection thinks McDavid will finish next season with 160 points.
Wayne Gretzky is the only NHL player to ever have 200 or more points in a season. If Connor McDavid keeps treading in the right direction, can he join the Gretzky on that list?
The Edmonton Oilers have a complete superstar in Connor McDavid.
If McDavid finishes with 160 points, that Mario Lemiuex stat is more than obtainable. Why stop at 160? Why not go all the way up to 200 points?
While that feat may seem impossible, it has been accomplished four times in NHL history. All four times were by a single player. That player, you probably already guessed, was fellow Edmonton Oiler Wayne Gretzky.
If anyone can reach Gretzky’s heights, it’s McDavid. Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins might have had a chance but Crosby also broke into the league when low-scoring games were more the norm.
The tide has shifted back towards offense in today’s NHL where you are more likely to see a 5-4 game score than a 2-1 game score.
Here is the potential bad news for McDavid. Gretzky’s four 200-point seasons came when he was 20, 22, 23, and 24 years old.
McDavid is already older than that. McDavid’s age-26 season was good enough for 15th best in NHL history and better than Getzky’s own age-26 season. Unfortunately, Gretzky was held to only 64 games that year while McDavid played in all 82.
To set the bare minimum of 200 points through 82 games, McDavid would have to score at a clip of 2.44 points per game (we rounded up just a bit for good measure).
In Gretzky’s four 200-point seasons he never scored less than 2.77 points per game. That was in 1983-1984 when he had only (yes, only) 205 points in 74 games.
McDavid would need to score more than a half of a point more per game in an 82-game schedule off his career-best last season (1.87 points per game, rounded up for good measure) to get to the absolute bare minimum mark for 200 points.
One thing McDavid does have on his side is that the NHL season is slightly longer than it was when Gretzky had the best offensive outputs of his career.
In Gretzky’s four 200-point seasons, there were never more than 80 regular-season games to play.
With those two extra games, McDavid needs to get 2.44 points per game to reach 200 points. Gretzky would need 2.50 points per game. Okay, maybe it’s not as much of a difference as we thought.
Another thing that McDavid has going for him is that he has, so far, gotten better with age. Gretzky reached his career peak at age 24 while McDavid reached it at age 26 and he’s still going.
McDavid improved by 30 points over his age-25 season. Another 30-ish point increase seems unlikely but McDavid has done it once already so it can be done.
If he does have another increase like that, that would put him at 183 points and close enough to flirt with that 200-point threshold throughout the season.
McDavid’s second-highest year-over-year point increase was from 2020-2021 to 2021-2022 when he went from 105 points to 123 points.
That’s not a perfect comparison for a variety of reasons. One, the 2020-2021 season was a shortened 56-game season, and two, the Oilers only played against Canadian competition. That resulted in McDavid having even higher points per game (1.89) than he did last season.
We also did not include his second season, because his rookie year was cut short just over halfway due to an injury.
Oilers fans and McDavid himself most likely don’t care about that 200-point level. After all, it’s just another regular-season superlative.
Who needs a 200-point season if your season ends with a Stanley Cup? When it comes to McDavid, it seems the best is yet to come. Just like Sinatra said, “Won’t it be fine”.