Sidney Crosby has been a star in the NHL since he entered the League in 2005, but his former coach Ed Olczyk has seen the Pittsburgh Penguins captain improve with age.
"There's much more maturity there," Olczyk said Tuesday. "You still see the same drive and passion that I saw there 10 or 11 years ago. The drive he has separates him from a lot of players."
Olczyk's coaching tenure with the Penguins overlapped with Crosby's first 31 NHL games in 2005. A season after he was fired by Pittsburgh, Olczyk became the lead color commentator for NBC's coverage of the NHL and has seen a lot of Crosby in the past decade. Olczyk, Mike Emrick and Pierre McGuire are calling their 10th straight Stanley Cup Final for NBC, and Crosby and the Penguins are playing in their third in that span.
Pittsburgh leads the San Jose Sharks 1-0 in the best-of-7 series; Game 2 will be at Consol Energy Center on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).
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Crosby had an assist on Conor Sheary's first-period goal in the Penguins' 3-2 win against the Sharks in Game 1 on Monday, and Olczyk said Crosby was one of the best players of the game.
"He was awesome [Monday]," Olczyk said. "He could've easily had four or five points."
Crosby was highly coveted coming from Rimouski of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. After winning the 2005 NHL Draft Lottery, the Penguins selected him No. 1 that year. Although he has played for five coaches in Pittsburgh, Crosby has lived up to expectations. He has won the Hart and Art Ross Trophies twice and been nominated for the Hart Trophy five times, including this season.
"For me, you knew he was going to be an elite player," Olczyk said. "With everything that comes with that, that is not easy."
Crosby will turn 29 on Aug. 7, but much has been made about his legacy throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Crosby won the Cup in 2009, has 938 points in 707 regular-season games, and McGuire and Olczyk believe the Hockey Hall of Fame will be in Crosby's future after he retires.
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"He has been to three Finals and won one, and this would be his second, though there is a long way to go," McGuire said. "He has World Junior [Championship] gold, World Championship gold, two Olympic gold medals. He has won major awards. I look at it, and would say Sidney Crosby is well on his way to being a Hall of Fame player."