Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid believes Wayne Gretzky's NHL record of 50 goals in his team's first 39 games of a season is safe.
"Never ever [will it be done again], I don't think," McDavid said of the feat Gretzky accomplished during the 1981-82 season. "If it's someone maybe scoring 50 goals in 50 games again (done eight times), maybe, but I don't think anyone will ever come close to [Gretzky's] record. I've definitely watched a few of the highlight-reel goals he scored that season. They were all pretty remarkable."
Gretzky's feat has reached the semifinal round of the Greatest NHL Moments Presented by Coors Light and Pepsi Zero Sugar. It is up against Mario Lemieux scoring five different ways Dec. 31, 1988. In the other semifinal, Bobby Orr's iconic Stanley Cup-winning goal for the Boston Bruins on May 15, 1970, is up against Teemu Selanne setting the rookie goal-scoring record as a member of the Winnipeg Jets, breaking Mike Bossy's mark with a hat trick on March 2, 1993, on the way to finishing with 76 goals.
The original bracket of 64 moments, as determined by a blue-ribbon panel consisting of broadcasters from NHL national rightsholders NBC Sports Group, NHL Network, Sportsnet and TVA, has been cut to four through four rounds of voting. The bracket is divided into four regions: Hart, Norris, Calder and Vezina. The fourth round of voting ended Tuesday. The semifinal-round voting started Wednesday and continues through Nov. 21.
Oilers coach Todd McLellan was 14 years old when he watched the drama of Gretzky's feat unfold on television.
"The anticipation of what's going to happen the next night was incredible," McLellan said. "Is he going to get it? What day is he going to get it? You didn't want to miss an Oilers game as he got closer because you wanted to witness the history of it.
Video: 1981: Wayne Gretzky scores 50 goals in 39 games
"I thought that record really drove that team too. They played to help Wayne achieve that accomplishment, and while they were doing that, they were playing some good defensive hockey."
Gretzky scored five times to reach 50 goals in a 7-5 win against the Philadelphia Flyers on Dec. 30, 1981. (That season, he also finished with 92 goals, the most in NHL history.)
"I think [scoring 50 in 39 games] will be a very difficult record to beat," McLellan said. "Can it be done? Of course. Look at the start that [Alex Ovechkin] had this year."
Ovechkin had nine goals in his first five games of the season for the Washington Capitals. He had 13 goals in 19 games entering Thursday.
"It's really hard to sustain that type of pace in today's game," McLellan said. "The checking is so good and the goaltenders are elite. Not that the goalies weren't [elite] back then, but they just play the game a little differently today so I think it'd be hard to beat it.
"If it happens, it would be fun to watch."
Fans can visit NHL.com/GreatestMoments to vote for their most memorable NHL achievements. They can join the conversation using the hashtag #NHLGreatestMoments. The fans' choice for the Greatest NHL Moment will be announced during the 2017 Scotiabank NHL100 Classic between the Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators at Lansdowne Park in Ottawa on Dec. 16.