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Injury to OHL prodigy McDavid will have repercussions – but not for long

Over his three seasons in the Ontario Hockey League, Connor McDavid had never been in an honest-to-God, gloves-dropped, punches-thrown fight.

He decided to try it for the first time on Monday night. It ended in a small disaster.

It was midway through the second period. Small crowd. Game well in hand for his Erie Otters. McDavid sitting on a goal and an assist.

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After a very minor ruck behind the net, McDavid, 17, turned to skate back up ice. The Mississauga Steelheads' Bryson Cianfrone took a two-handed swipe at him. McDavid wheeled back and engaged, full-assault mode.

It was going fine until Cianfrone turned protectively into the corner. McDavid missed badly with a downward-angled punch and slammed his fist full-force into the glass. He came out of the fight clutching his right hand. He headed first to the penalty box, but was told he'd been ejected for pulling off Cianfrone's helmet.

He left the ice quickly and clearly angry. The crowd got very quiet. He was taken to a local hospital for X-rays. As of this writing, his exact condition was unknown; the team announced he'd be examined by a hand specialist and was "out indefinitely." But as one member of the team's PR staff put it: "It's not looking good."

It's not looking good for a bunch of people.

First of all, it's not looking good for the Erie Otters. They've lost the best junior player on the planet. People are also going to wonder why no one jumped in on McDavid's behalf (though, in fairness, there was no real time to do that).

They'll also wonder why a player known for his unusual sense of calm on the ice suddenly snapped.

"You can't hold him back and take the bite out of him," Erie coach Kris Knoblauch said afterward, somewhat weakly. You certainly can if the hands doing that biting are worth many wins for you and many millions of dollars in the future.

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It's also not looking good for Canada's national junior team. The world juniors begin in six weeks in Montreal and Toronto. McDavid is the unchallenged star of that group. Without him, Canada is still a favourite, but much less of one. As deep as that team is, there is no replacing a player of McDavid's calibre.

The Buffalo Sabres will not be thinking the world looks very cheery this morning. They haven't just gone all in to get McDavid at the first-overall spot in the 2015 draft. They look as if they've stopped trying altogether.

Another lost season in Buffalo can only be mitigated by the arrival of a fully healthy McDavid in a few months' time.

This will also raise questions – very minor ones – about McDavid, himself.

A skater this fluid and mesmeric, the sort who embarrasses opponents, is going to be chopped and hacked at for the entirety of his career. McDavid is a solid but rangy 6-foot-1 and listed at 190 pounds (probably more like 175-180). He'll have to learn to let others do what's necessary to maintain order out there.

Asked if he would have a word with his player when he returns, Knoblauch smiled wryly and said: "He knows how disappointing it can be [to get injured in a fight]. I don't think anyone will have to say anything to him."

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Whatever the injury, it will heal. There is still every chance McDavid plays in the world juniors. That's very likely when his already ascendant star goes supernova.

Based on what we've seen of this kid, it's likely to stay that way for many, many years. He is an uncannily old soul in a body of Olympian ability.

Years from now, if everything goes to script, this may have been a very important night in the life of one of hockey's great players.

It was the night he learned that looking for a Gordie Howe hat trick only makes sense if you're Gordie Howe.

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