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Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel could have played together at Boston University

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Connor McDavid had interest in playing at Boston University, where he and Jack Eichel could have created the best one-two punch in NCAA history.

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

So I just stumbled over this 2013 Toronto Star story about Connor McDavid, and ... well:

As a 15 year old, McDavid was granted exceptional-player status by Hockey Canada last year, enabling the Otters to draft him No. 1 overall in April. Only two other players ever have received such permission, John Tavares of the New York Islanders and Aaron Ekblad, who is currently with the Barrie Colts.

McDavid also considered playing NCAA hockey, possibly at Boston University, but decided his developing skills would be stunted while waiting to attend college.

Instead, he is a leading candidate for OHL Rookie of the Year despite nightly battles against opponents who are mostly 19 or 20 years old. McDavid paces all first-year OHL players in scoring with 54 points in 52 games, including 24 goals. He is also under consideration for selection to Canada's under-18 team in April.

OK. So, wow.

Everybody knows that McDavid and Eichel are the Big Two in this 2015 NHL draft.

Consider how much Eichel meant to his team: In 2013-14, without him, the Terriers finished third-from-the-bottom in Hockey East with a 10-21-4 overall record. There wasn't a total overhaul or anything in 2014-15 ... aside from the addition of Eichel. He helped them to a 28-8-5 overall record, all the way to BU's first Beanpot win since 2009, a Hockey East regular season title, a Hockey East tournament title, and a berth in the National Championship game.

He is an elite talent and one of the best college players we've ever seen, even as just a freshman. Oh, and he won the Hobey Baker Award to show for it all.

Add McDavid to that mix and ... holy crap. That one-two punch down the middle at BU would have been unlike anything we've ever seen in college hockey. The Terriers would have easily won the national title in 2015 with these two electric freshmen, and hockey is not a sport where you can often say that one or two players makes that kind of difference. That's how good they are.

But something seems off here. It is extremely rare for top-level Canadian players to go to the NCAA or even consider the NCAA, because they obviously can't play college hockey at 16 or 17 -- or, in McDavid's case, 15 years old, as the Star article notes. They have to play junior hockey instead, like Eichel did for two seasons with USA Hockey's National Team Development Program in the United States Hockey League. (The NTDP, you could argue, exists in part to help keep top-flight American talent in the USHL-NCAA system versus running off to Canada and the major junior CHL ranks.)

McDavid is not American, so he obviously would not have been able to play for the NTDP. He could have played for any other team in the USHL, or he could have played in a lower-rung Canadian junior league before jumping to college. But since the NCAA sees the three Canadian major junior leagues -- the OHL, QMJHL and WHL -- as pro leagues, you lose your college eligibility the second you play there.

So McDavid really didn't have much of a choice. It was either start four years of eligibility in major junior at 15, or play lower-level hockey and wait to kick off four years of NCAA eligibility at age 17.

The interest was definitely there in some way, says Nate Ewell of College Hockey, Inc.

But ultimately, it does makes sense for McDavid that he decided to play in the OHL instead.

Now ... on the flip side, there was a lot of talk before Eichel's freshman season at BU that he was thinking of playing in Canadian major junior. As a Massachusetts native, he didn't have a realistic chance of being drafted into the OHL, where McDavid played. Instead he was drafted into the QMJHL, which holds New England in their territory when it comes to drafting American talent, by the Halifax Mooseheads.

Yes, that means there was a chance that Eichel could have played junior hockey with Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin, but he passed on that opportunity and always stuck firm to his desire to play big time college hockey. I mean, as a hockey player in the Boston suburbs, that's pretty much the dream anyway ... playing for BU or Boston College.

Eichel made his choice. McDavid made his. Next year, we'll see them head-to-head in the NHL -- and at the 2016 World Cup, where both will finally be teammates for the first time playing for the dual USA-Canada under-23 team.

h/t Reddit