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McDavid, Draisaitl 'nightmare' for opponents, Hall of Fame electees say

Oilers' 'special players' combined for 11 points in win against Avalanche

by Mike Zeisberger @Zeisberger / Staff Writer

TORONTO -- On the day Guy Carbonneau received his Hockey Hall of Fame ring for being one of the NHL's best-ever checkers, the Montreal Canadiens great was asked what he would do to shut down Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

"I definitely would have to work on my skating a little bit more," the former center said with a grin Friday, referring to the Edmonton Oilers' high-scoring forwards. "That's the beauty of the game now. All the players are so fast. And those two, in particular, are special players."

The other members of the Hall of Fame's Class of 2019 couldn't agree more. 

Joining Carbonneau for the ring ceremony was former New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Dallas Stars defenseman Sergei Zubov; decorated former Canada women's national team forward Hayley Wickenheiser; Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford; and Vaclav Nedomansky, the first athlete from an Eastern European communist country (Czechoslovakia) to defect to North America to pursue a professional hockey career, signing with Toronto of the World Hockey Association in 1974.

Boston College coach Jerry York, who has won five NCAA Division I men's championships, could not attend the ceremony but will be on hand for the induction Monday.

There was a buzz among the honorees about McDavid and Draisaitl, who combined for 11 points in Edmonton's 6-2 win against the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday. McDavid had six points (three goals, three assists); Draisaitl had five assists.

Video: COL@EDM: McDavid propels Oilers with six-point game

"There are still some guys in today's game, even with the speed, who can check elite guys like that," said Carbonneau, who also played for the St. Louis Blues and Dallas Stars. "(Centers) Patrice Bergeron and Anze Kopitar come to mind. But it's not easy.

"I think people want to see players like McDavid and Draisaitl. They pay big bucks to watch guys on TV or see players like that at the rink. For coaches, it's a nightmare, though. In my day, the key to winning was to stop guys from scoring. Today, it's all about if they score four, we need to score five or six or seven. For show, it's fun to watch."

Carbonneau said he faced some dynamic forward duos himself when he played, namely Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri of the Oilers, and Brett Hull and Adam Oates of the Blues. 

Rutherford is blessed with his own two top-end forwards, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Crosby, however, will be out at least six weeks after having core muscle surgery this week.

"I'm not going to rate them, but [McDavid and Draisaitl] are up there," Rutherford said. "As long as I've been in the sport, there are certain times where people ask: 'Where's the game going to go? When such-and-such a player leaves, where's it going to go?' This is an example of two great young players. And they'll get to the point where there's going to be two more great players. It's always going to be the same way.

"When I played, Montreal had Guy Lafleur and Steve Shutt. The Bruins were always dangerous with Phil Esposito and Bobby Orr. The Flyers with Bobby Clarke and Reggie Leach.

"Those were some tough nights. And not for them," he said with a laugh, recalling his days as a goalie.

Draisaitl has 41 points (15 goals, 26 assists) in 21 games and is on pace for 160 points over a full 82-game schedule. McDavid, with 37 points (14 goals, 23 assists) in 21 games, is on pace for 144.

"For a defenseman, that's not good news," Zubov said with a laugh. "But it's fun for the game. They're fun for the game. And that's what matters."

Wickenheiser, a native of Shaunavon, Saskatchewan, grew up watching the fierce rivalry between the Oilers and Calgary Flames. 

"When you see Connor and Leon there, it reminds me of the Oilers of the 1980s," Wickenheiser said. "Run and gun. I love that type of hockey. It's great when that happens, especially when you see the buzz throughout the nation."

Wickenheiser was part of a prolific forward twosome herself, teaming up with Danielle Goyette for Canada at the Olympics three times, winning a silver medal in 1998 and a gold medal in 2002 and 2006. Goyette was inducted into the Hall in 2017.

"We had a lot of success together for a long time," Wickenheiser said. "And I think the U.S. has their own dynamic duo right now with Hilary Knight and Brianna Decker."

Nedomansky is rooting for McDavid and Draisaitl to keep up the pace.

"But it's hard," the former forward said. "Over an 82-game schedule, with the potential of injuries and being targeted by other team's checkers … well, it doesn't get any easier."

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