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Gretzky calls McDavid best prospect 'in 30 years'

by NHL.com Staff / NHL.com

Wayne Gretzky said he believes Erie Otters captain Connor McDavid would not only be the perfect fit for the Edmonton Oilers, but the best player to enter the NHL in three decades.

Gretzky told Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal that McDavid, the projected No. 1 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla., on June 26, 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," Gretzky said. "He can definitely change a franchise's fortunes.

"I think it'll be a perfect fit for Connor in Edmonton."

The Oilers, who have failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for nine straight seasons, introduced Gretzky to the NHL in 1979 and will have the chance to do the same if they select McDavid at the NHL Draft.

The Oilers will select No. 1 at the draft for the fourth time in six years. Gretzky is pulling for his former team to select McDavid.

"Not one bit is Edmonton a suffocating place to play; he'll be treated like an Edmontonian," Gretzky said. "People will give him his privacy while they're enamored by his ability. I know the Oilers have gone through a lot the last few years 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."

McDavid, regarded as the top draft prospect since Crosby, offers incredible speed with game-changing potential. He had 97 goals and 285 points in 166 regular-season games (1.71 points-per game) in three seasons in the Ontario Hockey League. He finished third in the league this season with 120 points (44 goals, 76 assists), in addition to excelling at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship for gold medalist Canada.

Gretzky went on to say he hopes McDavid has a tremendous career and breaks all of his records. Gretzky is the NHL's all-time leading scorer with 2,857 points; he holds or shares 61 NHL records.

"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," Gretzky said. "I hope he brings Edmonton a Stanley Cup and he breaks my records. He's got the talent and the makeup to do it."

Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish said there was zero chance he'd even think of trading the No. 1 pick.

"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," Gretzky said. "Did Montreal trade the pick when they were going to get Guy Lafleur (in 1971)? Or 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."

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