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Top prospect McDavid gets chance to meet his hero Crosby

| Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Penguins co-owner Mario Lemieux (left) and center Sidney Crosby (right) pose with 16-year-old prospect Connor McDavid after a 2013 Penguins-Devils game.

Unhappy after Sunday's 3-1 loss to New Jersey, Sidney Crosby finished his daily meeting with reporters and then actually mustered a smile.

It's not every day that the Next One meets the next one.

Crosby, once a child prodigy who was compared to Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux, finally met the kid he compared to himself when Connor McDavid visited Consol Energy Center.

In October, Crosby gave this glowing assessment of McDavid to the Tribune-Review: “When I watched him play, he reminded me of myself.”

“Unbelievable,” McDavid said. “It was unbelievable just to see him and get to talk to him. He is my idol and my role model. To meet him was a dream come true.”

McDavid, who turned 16 last month, is considered to be the top prospect of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. He became only the third player in Ontario Hockey League history to receive “exceptional status,” which permits 15-year-olds to participate a year before they ordinarily would be eligible; John Tavares and Aaron Ekblad are the others.

In his first year with the Erie Otters, McDavid has wowed scouts and teammates by producing 52 points in 49 games while battling prospects between the ages of 16 and 20.

“He's not even old enough to play in the league without the ‘exceptional status,' ” Penguins director of amateur scouting Jay Heinbuck said. “But he is certainly playing beyond his age. He is smart, and he is skilled.”

McDavid does seem to share some physical attributes with Crosby, namely his ability to accelerate quickly and his striking passing ability.

During his visit to Pittsburgh on Sunday, McDavid also displayed many similarities to Crosby on a personal level. McDavid is polite and reserved. He always seems to say the correct thing. He admits to growing up emulating Crosby.

Everyone, it seems, was impressed with McDavid.

Penguins owner Mario Lemieux was walking toward the Penguins locker room following Sunday's game when he was asked about McDavid. Lemieux stopped, turned around, smiled and said, “Nice kid.”

Lemieux would know.

The Penguins invited McDavid, along with Erie teammates Stephen Harper and Hayden Hodgsen, to Sunday's game. Although the trio was told it would receive a tour of Consol Energy Center, nothing was said about seating arrangements.

Not long before game time, the teenagers were escorted into a private box.

Lemieux was there waiting for them.

“Totally crazy,” McDavid said. “To watch a hockey game with Mario Lemieux, I mean, it was just crazy.”

McDavid has enjoyed quite a first season in the OHL. He is an attraction in every building and recently signed a lucrative deal with Reebok, which also employs Crosby.

“And he handles himself so well,” Hodgsen said. “He's like no 16-year-old I've ever met. He's special, and everybody knows it.”

Crosby had a few minutes of private conversation with McDavid after their initial meeting. When the conversation began to wrap up, Crosby suggested McDavid could come see the Penguins play again.

“Not too far of a drive,” Crosby said.

Sunday's trip doesn't figure to be McDavid's final to an NHL building.

And even though his intelligence and maturity seem far advanced for his age, McDavid was still allowed to be a kid when meeting his hero.

“Pretty amazing,” he said. “I couldn't believe it.”

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