When Connor McDavid takes the ice in the Edmonton Oilers’ season opener Oct. 12, he’ll become the youngest captain in NHL history at 19 years, 273 days old.
McDavid was captain of his junior team in Erie and of Team North America at the World Cup of Hockey, so it was no surprise that the generational talent got the “C” for the Oilers.
Oilers coach Todd McLellan called McDavid “mature beyond his years” and an ambassador of the game like Sidney Crosby, a fellow No. 1 pick who also became captain at a very young age.
McDavid is only 45 games into his NHL career and his history as Oilers captain is yet to be written. Here’s a look at how the previous five youngest captains in NHL history fared with that great responsibility:
Named captain of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2000 at 19 years, 315 days old, the 1998 No. 1 pick lasted only a season and change before he clashed with coach John Tortorella and was stripped of the captaincy, which was given to veteran Dave Andreychuk. Lecavalier didn’t wear a letter but blossomed into a star and was a point-a-game player when the Lightning won the Stanley Cup in 2004.
Lecavalier was long the face of the franchise in “Hockey Bay” and served as captain again from 2008-2013 before he was bought out of his contract.
One of the youngest players to ever lace up his skates in the top Swedish men’s league, Landeskog was captain of the Ontario Hockey League’s Kitchener Rangers and got the “C” for the Colorado Avalanche after his rookie year. The 2012-13 lockout made Landeskog wait several months to start on the job at 20 years, 57 days old.
Landeskog helped Colorado make the playoffs in 2013-14 and the thoughtful Swede quietly remains one of the most respected players in the league.
The closest comparison to McDavid is Crosby, a franchise-changing superstar who was the No. 1 pick in the 2005 draft of the Pittsburgh Penguins and immediately showed he was one of the best in the world. Crosby was 20 years, 59 days old at the start of his third NHL season when he first served as captain and led Pittsburgh to the Cup Final several months later.
Crosby lifted the Cup as a 21-year-old in 2009 and then again as a 28-year-old in June.
The Chicago Blackhawks followed the Crosby model by making Toews captain before the 2008-09 season, and he was 20 years, 164 days old in his first game with that job. Like Crosby he won the Cup young, lifting it in 2010 and then again in 2013 and 2015 as the most accomplished captain of the salary-cap era.
Toews earned the moniker “Captain Serious” and along with Crosby is a gold standard for young captains.
Before McDavid, Landeskog, Crosby and Toews were born, the Detroit Red Wings made Yzerman captain at 21 years, 153 days old back in 1986. Yzerman had on-ice success and adjusted his game under legendary coach Scotty Bowman to the point that he was considered one of the most trusted two-way centres around and a top leader.
The Red Wings won the Cup in 1997, 1998 and 2002 with Yzerman leading the way. He’s now in the Hockey Hall of Fame.