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10:19 AM ET

  • ESPN.com

What will be Connor McDavid's biggest challenge down the stretch?

Scott Burnside: There is nothing quite like the Stanley Cup playoffs, no matter how great a player is. I saw Sidney Crosby's first playoff experience with the Pittsburgh Penguins up close in 2007. It lasted five games for the young Penguins. A year later, Crosby was in the Stanley Cup finals. Nothing to suggest McDavid can't rise to the occasion in a similar fashion. Actually, it will be a surprise if he doesn't. But the playoffs are a different beast. Always have been. As Rob notes below, McDavid's going to be challenged physically at a level he's never faced, especially if the Edmonton Oilers draw the big and experienced Anaheim Ducks. Away from the ice, the anticipation of a long-awaited return to the playoffs will provide another challenge. McDavid is the captain of this team, even if he's still very young, and he'll need to ensure that his young teammates are likewise ready for something long-awaited and something much different than they have faced as a team up until now.

Rob Vollman: The Oilers end the season with back-to-back games against the Vancouver Canucks, but that is preceded by a stretch from March 20 to April 6 when they play tough, California-based teams in seven of nine games. That means facing tough, playoff-caliber shutdown lines, including Anaheim's amazing line of Andrew Cogliano, Ryan Kesler and Jakob Silfverberg — twice. You know they'll be keying in on McDavid, so that should give him a good taste of what to expect every night as the Oilers hit the playoffs for the first time since losing Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup finals.

Pierre LeBrun: Because of the shoulder injury last season in his otherwise phenomenal first NHL season, McDavid for the first time is experiencing his first NHL season-long grind, which is nothing like he's faced before. And that grind includes the World Cup of Hockey before the season. Thing is, he looks nothing like a player who's about to slow down. This kid reminds me so much of Sidney Crosby at that age, programmed for this life, ready to work harder to make it work than anyone. I have zero concerns about Connor McDavid.

Corey Pronman: I've been watching McDavid play since he hit puberty. There is no mental challenge he can't pass. The guy is a machine with all the talent and hockey IQ in the world. The only hurdle is standard for 20 year olds, and that's the physical play: How will it wear down his body going deeper into the season as it becomes more intense? Other than that, the only real problem McDavid faces is if the players around him don't step up their game because he is unlikely to falter.

Joe McDonald: Absolutely nothing. His confidence and ability got him to this point and he's showing zero signs of slowing down. Sure, every young player goes through the ebbs and flows earlier in their career, but McDavid's transition to the pro game has been relatively seamless. The 20-year-old captain leads by example on and off the ice and his teammates feed off his energy, dedication and work ethic. As the Oilers maintain their position in the playoff race, McDavid needs to continue what he's been doing and keep it simple. It sounds cliché but that's exactly what he's been doing and needs to continue.

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