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McDavid 'definitely' believes Crosby is best in the game

'To catch Sid, you have to do what Sid's done,' Oilers captain says

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / Columnist

NEW YORK -- Who's the best player in the NHL?

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid doesn't hesitate.

"I would say Sidney Crosby," McDavid said during the NHL Player Media Tour at the League offices Wednesday. "He's done it all. He's won it all. Individual, team, you name it, he's done it. He's a guy that I think everyone's kind of looked up to, and he's that guy for a reason."


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This is no surprise. McDavid has said it before. He grew up idolizing Crosby, and he's 20, 10 years younger than the Pittsburgh Penguins captain.

Most players and pundits agree. McDavid won the League scoring title and MVP last season, but Crosby won the goal-scoring title for the second time, Stanley Cup Playoff MVP for the second time and Cup for the third time, adding to his pile of accomplishments. McDavid is on the rise, but Crosby remains on top of his game and the game.

And what's McDavid going to say, "Me"?

"I don't think you're going to see any hockey player tell the media or anyone they're the best player in the world," he said. "It's just not who we are."

Video: McDavid praises Crosby as NHL's best

But McDavid seems genuine, not falsely modest, and at the same time, he seems more confident in himself and committed to making history now that he has won his first major individual awards and signed an eight-year, $100 million extension.

That only makes him seem more like Crosby and more likely to be the best himself someday.

If you try to separate being the best player from winning, considering a player can control his performance and not necessarily his team's, McDavid won't bite.

One, McDavid won't separate the two.

"That's ultimately how greatness and that stuff is kind of judged," McDavid said. "To catch Sid, you have to do what Sid's done and win everywhere he's been."

Two, McDavid considers Crosby the best straight up, anyway.

"I still do, yeah," McDavid said. "In today's day and age, there's so many different good players, great players, it's always up for debate. It's all kind of personal and what you think makes a good player. For me, I think he definitely is No. 1 in the world."

So forget the debate among the media and fans. What is McDavid's own criteria for the best player in the NHL?

"I just think it's everything," McDavid said. "I think in a lot of cases, I like to look at games that are well-rounded. Sid is very defensively responsible, and he's very good on faceoffs, two areas that I need to get better at. Obviously, his offensive abilities kind of speak for themselves."

Then McDavid adds this:

"But I think it's those guys that jump off the screen," McDavid said. "It's those guys that when you're watching a game, you can't really take your eyes off them. It's a guy that kind of always seems to have the puck and is kind of always involved in the play one way or another, making things happen."

Video: Sidney Crosby lands the No. 2 spot

For a moment, you think McDavid is describing himself. McDavid is even faster than Crosby, a blur with the puck.

But then McDavid adds this:

"And he's that guy," McDavid said.

Crosby. Again.

Crosby became the best because he worked on his all-around game -- emphasizing different parts at different times, like his faceoffs and his shot -- and had a strong enough supporting cast. He brought the most out of his talent and helped bring the most out of the talent around him. He was never satisfied. He still isn't.

McDavid is working on his defense and faceoffs. Even though he scored 30 goals last season, he's working on his shot too.

"In today's game, there's a lot of shots from the outside, quick-release chances that you see these guys score on, that I could definitely get better at," McDavid said.

The Penguins finished 29th in the NHL in Crosby's first season; the Oilers finished 29th in McDavid's. The Penguins made the playoffs in Crosby's second season; the Oilers made it in McDavid's. The Oilers came within a game of the Western Conference Final, losing to the Anaheim Ducks in Game 7 in the second round.

"I think I just learned how much of a grind it is, how much of a battle it is, what it takes to win, all those things you can't really understand until you've played in them and you've experienced them," McDavid said. "Did I watch the playoffs after? No. I didn't, really. I've been telling people, if the Oilers didn't win, I don't really care who won."

The Penguins went to the Eastern Conference Final in Crosby's third season and won the Cup in his fourth. McDavid said the biggest challenge he and the Oilers face now is higher expectations. But if McDavid keeps improving his all-around game, if the Oilers surround him with a strong enough supporting cast, they can meet them.

McDavid can be even better. He can be the best someday, maybe sooner rather than later, and deep down he must know it. Read the last quote.

"You definitely don't want to be one of those guys that's a one-and-done," McDavid said. "I've kind of always said that one season doesn't make a career. I'm a guy who wants to make a lasting impression on hockey, and if I'm going to do that, I have a lot more work to do than just one season."

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