“I think he’s the best 19-year-old hockey player I’ve ever seen.”
Wayne Gretzky had some high praise for Connor McDavid on Tuesday night. In an appearance on the NHL Network (transcribed by Chris Nichols of Today’s Slapshot), Gretzky called McDavid the “catalyst” of the Oilers. Edmonton is off to a 9-4-1 start, tied with Chicago for tops in the Western Conference, and McDavid is a major part of that. He is tied for second in the NHL with 17 points.
Tuesday night marked the first time McDavid, the future face of the NHL, took on Sidney Crosby, the current face of the NHL. The Oilers captain posted three assists while Crosby was held pointless for the first time this season. McDavid won the battle, but his team lost the war on a Benoit Pouliot own-goal with less than two minutes remaining.
Despite his high praise for McDavid, Gretzky still believes Crosby is the best player in the NHL, until “somebody knocks him off that mantle.”
McDavid leads the way for several highly-skilled young players like the top two selections from last June’s draft: Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine. Laine is leading the NHL with 11 goals in 14 games; he already has two hat-tricks in his young career, earning him the nickname “Hat-trick Laine”.
ESPN’s Joe McDonald relayed a story from the World Cup, where Laine represented the Finns. During a team practice, Laine ripped a shot past Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask. Rask admitted he never even saw the puck go past him. Laine’s 11 goals in 14 games ties former Winnipeg Jets sniper Teemu Selanne’s record for goals in his first 14 NHL games. While Laine may not reach Selanne’s mark of 76 goals this season, he will certainly be among the NHL rookie leaders.
In Toronto, Matthews set an NHL record with a four goal outburst in his debut, but has slowed down slightly since then. He has six goals and 11 points in 13 games on a rebuilding Maple Leafs squad.
On the NHL Network, Gretzky complimented a few young players, including McDavid and Matthews for accepting “a responsibility of being that person for their city.”
Still in their prime, Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin are two of the best player in the NHL. With McDavid, Matthews, and Laine now in the picture, the future appears to be in very skilled hands.