TORONTO -- If this generation of young stars in the NHL feel they need a spokesman, they may have one in Dallas Stars general manager Jim Nill.
Nill should know; he has two skating on his top line in forwards Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. But he believes there are many others across the League.
"Guys like (Edmonton Oilers center) Connor McDavid or our guys, Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, these guys are elite athletes," Nill said Monday. "I think the young players today might be even better than the younger players from 20 years ago. They are more worldly. They have all [played] on national junior teams and the pressure doesn't seem to get to them. These guys are driven. Our game has never been better."
In the process of building what he hopes eventually becomes a Stanley Cup winner, Nill dreams of one day having players the caliber of Sergei Fedorov and Nicklas Lidstrom in his organization. Fedorov and Lidstrom are being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday.
Nill worked for 23 in management with the Red Wings, winning the Stanley Cup four times, and played for them for parts of three seasons.
"You sit down every day and you pray," Nill said with a laugh when asked how one finds players such as Fedorov and Lidstrom. "They are special players. These players we're talking about today – Lidstrom, Fedorov – these are special, special players. They are generational players. How do you find them? I don't think you do. They find you. They have something special in them."
Nill has fond memories of Fedorov joining the Red Wings as a 20-year-old in 1990. Having recently defected from the Soviet Union, Fedorov settled in nicely with Detroit and finished second to Steve Yzerman in scoring with 31 goals and 70 points in 77 games.
"The first time I saw him skate, he was low to the ice, powerful. It was incredible," Nill said. "He was one of those guys who, in fitness testing, won everything."