McDavid endorses Campbell signing with Oilers, ‘game speaks for itself’

TORONTO — Connor McDavid said Jack Campbell‘s experience in the spotlight playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs will help the goalie handle lofty expectations with the Edmonton Oilers.

“For sure. I mean, if you can be the starting goalie for the Leafs you can be the starting goalie anywhere,” the Oilers captain said at the Zach Hyman Celebrity Classic at the Oakdale Golf & Country Club in Toronto on Monday.

“Obviously, this is the hockey hotbed and there’s a tremendous amount of pressure on whoever fills that net. He’s occupied that job for the better part of two years and he’s done a great job of doing it, so I’m sure it’ll transition smoothly.”

Campbell signed a five-year, $25 million contract with the Oilers on July 13 after going 51-14-9 with a 2.50 goals-against average, .916 save percentage and seven shutouts in 77 games (75 starts) for the Maple Leafs from 2019-22. With 40-year-old Mike Smith not expected back and Mikko Koskinen signing a two-year contract to play with HC Lugano of the Swiss Elite League, Campbell will be the Oilers starter backed up by 23-year-old Stuart Skinner.

“I don’t know him a ton personally, just had a couple of conversations with him since he signed,” McDavid said. “He just seems to be a real positive guy and brings a lot of good energy.

“Obviously, his game speaks for itself. It’s taken him a lot longer than some to get to this position, but there’s no one more deserving than him. He’s put a lot into it and I’m sure he’s going to be great for us .”

McDavid was joined by Oilers teammates Darnell Nurse, Evan Bouchard and Devin Shoreamong others, with Maple Leafs forward Mitchell Marner and defenseman Jake Muzzin, to support local charities SickKids Hospital and the UJA Federation. Oilers players on hand said they are looking forward to building on their Western Conference Final appearance, when they were swept from the best-of-7 series by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche.

McDavid addressed that and other topics during a Q&A.

You talked about the addition of Jack Campbell. One of the other major moves made by the Oilers was bringing back forward Evander Kane, who had 39 points (22 goals, 17 assists) in 43 games last season. How relieved, if not excited, were you to see he was coming back?

“Having him back into the fold is really exciting. It was kind of touch and go there for a little bit, but to have him back is really exciting for the team and exciting for me personally. I really enjoyed playing with him. He’s a great player on the ice. Glad to have him back.”

In the Oilers exit meetings, almost every player talked about having a guy like him come back. What does it say when everyone is on the same page in that regard?

“He does a lot for us on the ice. He brings a lot of elements to his game that we’ve been looking for a long time in a top-six role. He’s a big body, he’s physical, he brings a lot of swagger and he plays with that emotion, that edge.

The Oilers reached the Final Four before being swept by the Avalanche. What did you learn from getting that far in the playoffs? And what did it teach you about how far you guys still need to go?

“I think you learn that there’s another level to reach. We worked really hard to put ourselves into the Final Four and there’s still another level to go. I mean, it was a good eye opener for our group to see the level teams like Colorado and (Tampa Bay Lightning) performed at, those types of teams. It’s a whole [other] level and another gear we’ve got to get to.”

The Battle of Alberta will look different this season with Johnny Gaudreau having left Calgary for Columbus and Matthew Tkachuk traded to the Florida Panthers in a package that included bringing forward Jonathan Huberdeau to the Calgary Flames. Your reaction to the Tkachuk-Huberdeau trade?

“I mean, obviously pretty shocked like everyone else. It’s a huge deal. Anytime there are a couple of 100-point guys flip-flopping spots it’s always going to shake up the hockey world. Some real good players as part of that deal. Obviously (MacKenzie) Weegar is an awesome D-man too. I think Calgary did a good job in a tough spot.”

Working on anything specific this summer in terms of your game?

“I’m always working on my game, trying to get better in any way possible. Nothing too particular this summer. I’m always just trying to round out my game and see where I can improve.”

Finally, can you talk about what the host of the event today, Zach Hyman, brought to the Oilers in his first season in Edmonton beyond the 54 points (27 goals, 27 assists) he put up?

“He’s been a great addition to our team. I’ve gotten to know him personally, train with him throughout the summer, and obviously just a really good guy. At an event like this, just to see how many people have come out to support him, it’s pretty cool to see.”

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