Entering the 2015 Ontario Hockey League playoffs, the only thing standing between Connor McDavid and becoming the first pick in that summer's NHL draft was an impressive playoff performance. McDavid didn't disappoint, leading the Erie Otters to an upset of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, the top-ranked team in Canadian junior hockey, in the conference finals -- and cementing his place as the best player not in the NHL.
"I've never seen a player dominate as much as he did," McDavid's coach in Erie, Kris Knoblauch, said of McDavid, who set an Otters record for most points in a playoff series, with 19. "Those six games stick out for me. He was absolutely dominant."
Despite losing in the OHL finals in five games to the Oshawa Generals, McDavid led the postseason in goals, assists and points while establishing himself as a player who refused to wilt in the glaring playoff spotlight.
Two years later, if McDavid -- now 20 and the superstar captain of the Edmonton Oilers -- has his way, his first appearance in the Stanley Cup playoffs could be a coronation.
These days, McDavid hasn't been thinking about that OHL run too often. It really only came up when he teased Oilers teammate Darnell Nurse -- who, as a defenseman on that top-ranked Greyhounds team, saw plenty of McDavid in that series.
"We talk about that a fair amount. I always remind Darnell of that series, all in joking and fun," McDavid said. "The OHL compared to the NHL playoffs, I don't think they really compare. You can't really rely on that experience."
The postseason provides a clean slate for everyone, even players who are riding a season-ending 14-game point streak like McDavid was. All his previous exploits will be rendered meaningless, including his remarkable 2016-17 regular season, during which he earned the Art Ross Trophy as the league's top scorer, with 100 points, and became the third-youngest scoring champ in league history, behind Sidney Crosby and Wayne Gretzky.
None of that matters in Edmonton's first-round series against the San Jose Sharks, which continues Friday in Edmonton, the Oilers down 1-0. McDavid, who had an assist in the Game 1 OT loss, has to prove himself all over again in the playoffs.
"He'll be gung ho," Oilers coach Todd McLellan said. "He'll have his team ready."
As the Sharks head coach from 2008 to 2015 and an assistant with the Detroit Red Wings team that hoisted the Stanley Cup in 2008, McLellan has seen his share of clutch playoff performances. McLellan already considers McDavid on par with some of the stars he has previously coached.
"It's like dealing with Joe Thornton or Joe Pavelski, Patrick Marleau, Henrik Zetterberg, those type of guys," McLellan said of McDavid. "He's 20, but you don't have a sense of immaturity when you're speaking with him or dealing with him."
McDavid's young NHL career hasn't been without its challenges. He broke his clavicle just weeks into his rookie season and missed nearly three months -- but still finished with 48 points in 45 games.
When he was named captain of the Oilers in October, making him -- at 19 years, 266 days -- the youngest player in NHL history to don the C, some thought it was too much too soon for the phenom.