Monday, April 20, 2015

99 Thinks 97 Is Pretty Good

EDMONTON — Is Connor McDavid the Second Coming of Wayne Gretzky?

Edmonton Oilers fans are wondering that after the National Hockey League club won the draft lottery on Saturday, which gives them the right to select McDavid — the wondrous 18-year-old centre who racked up 44 goals and 120 points in a mere 47 games for his junior Erie Otters team — in June’s entry draft.

“Good for him. When I was going down that path as a young player, Gordie Howe was always pulling for me, and I look at Connor the same way,” said The Great One, who stands as the NHL’s all-time leading scorer with 2,857 points and holds or shares 61 NHL records. “I hope he brings Edmonton a Stanley Cup and he breaks my records ... he’s got the talent and the makeup to do it. I hope he leaves a couple for me, though. I could use that.”

Gretzky says McDavid is “clearly a franchise player.”
“He’s as good as I’ve seen in the last 30 years, the best player to come into the league in the last 30 years, the best to come along since (Mario) Lemieux and (Sidney) Crosby. He can definitely change a franchise’s fortunes,” said Gretzky, who feels Edmonton will be like a nice warm blanket for the teenager from Toronto, just as it was for Gretzky, who was born in Brantford, Ont.

”I think it’ll be a perfect fit for Connor in Edmonton. Not one bit is Edmonton a suffocating place to play. He’ll be treated like an Edmontonian. People will give him his privacy while they’re enamoured by his ability. I know the Oilers have gone through a lot the last few years (nine straight years out of the playoffs) but they’ll be patient with him. I know it’s a big step going from junior hockey to the NHL, but the Edmonton fans have been through that with (Mark) Messier and (Paul) Coffey and (Grant) Fuhr and myself,” said Gretzky.

“What I notice about Connor is he does the right things and he says the right things; he’s very mature for an 18-year-old who’s rated No. 1,” said Gretzky. “I’ve talked to him, and I’m fascinated by his maturity, being under the microscope.”

People were saying the same things about No. 99 in the late 1970s.
McDavid will be diving into the deep end, coming directly from junior to the NHL, something Gretzky didn’t have to do in 1978 when he left the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds at 17 to play in the rival World Hockey Association. He had a pit-stop in the WHA and had 110 points.
“Yeah, I got a year of training. The WHA wasn’t the NHL, but it was better than the American Hockey League ... that was my stepping stone,” said Gretzky. “I got lots of help from older guys like Paul Shymr, Dave Dryden and Ace Bailey. My year (of pro hockey) is something Connor won’t have, and it’s a big step. but he’s excelled at every level and I don’t see it taking a long time for Connor,” said Gretzky, who had 137 points his first NHL season.

“I’ve had lots of people come up to me and ask ‘Do you think the Oilers would trade the No. 1 pick.? I just laugh. Did Montreal trade the pick when they were going to get Guy Lafleur (in 1971)? 0r Pittsburgh with Lemieux (1984) or Crosby (2005)? You don’t trade guys like that. Especially a player who’ll help your franchise and your city for the next 15 years,” said Gretzky.
“I guess it’ll be the worst kept secret at the draft (June 26) who the Oilers are taking ... but I know when (former Canadiens general manager) Sam Pollock traded all those players to Los Angeles to make sure they were getting the first pick for Lafleur, there was no big surprise,” said Gretzky.

Even as terrific as Gretzky was in his first NHL season, he couldn’t will the Oilers into the playoffs. They needed a goalie that year just as the current team does, and acquired Ron Low at the NHL trade deadline, finishing 16th and losing to the Philadelphia Flyers in the first playoff round.
The current Oilers need a bonafide No. 1 goalie. They need another defenceman or two. But when McDavid tugs on an Oilers jersey for that annual June draft picture with team owner Daryl Katz, it could be a fine marriage.

“This may be the one player who can get the Oilers over the hump,” said Gretzky. “Maybe this is a step forward for the whole city, not just the organization.”

(Edmonton Journal) 


Anonymous said...

Maybe the management was better in your day Wayne.

Anonymous said...

Those who think the Oilers are going to screw this kid up don't know the game.

The NHL is screwing up offence. The leading scorer this year didn't even get 90 points.

Bob Nicholson is now in charge of the entire operation and I expect we will see a complete fade of Kevin Lowe very similar to what the Pats did with Chad Lang.


Anonymous said...

Really Darren?

Tell me what will be different this time?

Another 5 year plan?

Bob Nicholson isn't the answer. They need a GM that ISN'T alumni that can make the hard decisions. Ray Shero, Peter Chiarelli, Jeff Gorton, etc. Hell even JFJ would be better than MacT.