12/15/2014 12:47 EST | Updated 02/14/2015 05:59 EST

McDavid cleared for contact, practises with Canada's world junior team

ST. CATHARINES, Ont. - Connor McDavid shrugged off the latest sign of progress in his return from a broken bone in his right hand.

The junior hockey star has been cleared for contact and has started practising with the rest of his Canadian world junior teammates. That came as no surprise to McDavid, who expected to be at this point in his recovery all along.

"It's kind of been the plan for a while now," McDavid said. "The last checkup was a couple Tuesdays ago, and that's kind of been the plan from Day One was to start contact on this date. Just kind of following the plan."

The plan has McDavid on track to be healthy and ready to go when Canada opens the tournament Dec. 26 in Montreal against Slovakia. But shedding the yellow no-contact jersey and getting through a full practice was an important step toward that goal.

McDavid did that Monday at Meridian Centre on the first day of Canada's main training camp. Like McDavid, coach Benoit Groulx knew it was coming, and he knew what to look for in the 17-year-old's progress.

"How did they feel? Do they look confident on the ice when they skate, do they have poise with the puck, do they seem to have chemistry out there?" Groulx said. "When you look at Connor today, I thought he had all that, and it is good to see that."

McDavid reported no problems with his hand, as expected. The Erie Otters star and projected No. 1 pick in next year's NHL draft was able to take full slap shots last week.

On Nov. 11, McDavid broke the fifth metacarpal in his right hand when it struck the top of the boards during a fight with Bryson Cianfrone of the Mississauga Steelheads. A specialist he saw the next day in Toronto estimated McDavid would miss five to six weeks.

The five-week mark is Tuesday, and McDavid still has a few more practices he can go through before worrying about playing in a game. Canada has three international exhibitions: Friday against Russia in Toronto, Sunday against Sweden in Ottawa and Dec. 23 against Switzerland in Montreal.

McDavid said he's still hoping to get into one or two of those exhibition games. The only hindrance to that at this point is getting timing back on the ice.

"I've been almost bag-skating for three weeks. My legs feel great, the legs aren't too much of an issue at all," McDavid said. "Obviously still getting the hands back is coming along, getting a little better. The only thing that's going to come is timing. The only way to do that is through competition and through contact and all that. That's going to take a little time to get back."

McDavid appeared to fit in seamlessly in Canada's camp lineup Monday, skating between Nic Petan and Robby Fabbri on the second line. Sam Reinhart centred the veteran first line between Max Domi and Anthony Duclair.

Groulx liked the chemistry McDavid and Fabbri showed over the summer. It's natural, as McDavid said the two have been playing with or against each other since they were seven or eight years old.

"We've known each other a long time," McDavid said. "I've seen him play so many times you get a sense of where he's going to be at, some stuff he's going to do."

It was to be expected that teammates would hold back a little from McDavid in his first full practice, though the Newmarket, Ont., native said "they don't have to." Groulx didn't see players letting up.

"At first, I think when they see him, they want to make sure that they don't hit him on his glove," Groulx said. "You know it's there, so they've got to be careful. But overall I think guys went pretty hard today."

McDavid, who wore a full cage and a white No. 17 jersey, has a few days to test his hand and get into game shape. Groulx said he didn't know if McDavid would play Friday against Russia at Air Canada Centre.

"We're not there yet," Groulx said. "Our focus is to prepare our team, go through our systems, lines, see how it works during practices. We will see how it plays out. We are not building our lineup for Friday yet."

One thing Canada found out Monday was that Bo Horvat definitely won't be in its lineup at any point. The Vancouver Canucks announced Horvat would be remaining in the NHL.

"Bo Horvat has proven he can contribute to the success of the Vancouver Canucks," Canucks GM Jim Benning said. "He is a solid two-way player, strong in the faceoff circle and displays a maturity beyond his years. We're very pleased with Bo's play and look forward to watching him develop as an NHL player."

Horvat's absence, and the decreased likelihood that the Ottawa Senators will release Curtis Lazar because of a couple of injuries at forward, is good news for Frederik Gauthier. The Toronto Maple Leafs prospect figures to be Canada's fourth-line centre, though his spot would have been in jeopardy if Horvat or Lazar joined the team.

Notes — Groulx said the team received booster shots to protect against the mumps virus, which has spread around the NHL. At least 14 players have been diagnosed with the mumps so far, including Sidney Crosby. ... Forward Michael Dal Colle and defenceman Joe Hicketts each practised Monday. Dal Colle missed Sunday's exhibition game because he was "a little banged up," Groulx said, and Hicketts was taken out for precautionary reasons after taking a hit from behind into the boards.


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