SUNRISE, Fla. -- When Connor McDavid broke Wayne Gretzky’s NHL record for assists in a single postseason in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday, Mark Messier was inside a raucous Rogers Place to see it in person.

How fitting.

The Hall of Fame forward was Gretzky’s teammate for four Stanley Cup championships with the Oilers (1983-84, 1984-85, 1986-87, 1987-88), so he had a firsthand view of the magic the NHL’s all-time leading scorer could create on the ice.

As a result, Messier knows how special and gifted any player must be in order to break any of The Great One’s records. To witness McDavid, the Oilers captain, do just that as part of a four-point night (one goal, three assists) in an 8-1 victory against the Florida Panthers only adds to the appreciation Messier has for Edmonton’s No. 97.

“Everybody who covers the game, everyone who watches the game, they know he’s entered the mindset of being a once-in-a-lifetime talent, or at least a generational talent,” Messier, now an analyst for ESPN, said Monday.

“A player that we’ve never seen the likes of. Maybe ever.”

Ahead of Game 5 of the Final, which the Oilers trail 3-1, at Amerant Bank Arena Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; ABC, ESPN+, SN, TVAS, CBC), Messier discussed McDavid, his similarities to Gretzky, and just how high his ceiling could be as part of a 1-on-1 with

No one is or should be saying Connor is the next Gretzky, but when it comes to anticipation or seeing the ice, do you notice any similarities?

“I think every great player has that. When you talk about Wayne, his sense of the game, looking down at the chessboard, I don’t think anybody ever would compare to his sense of vision. That was his best trait other than his competitiveness and underrated skill set. That alone set him apart from anyone else. In McDavid’s case, his skating is unparalleled to anyone who ever played the game. I think that provides him time and creates space on the ice, and it lets him pick opponents apart. He’s dangerous enough when he plays. When he creates time for himself, that’s when he’s so quick at picking out options. More often than not, it’s the right option.”

Having said that, you’ve been very open about how impressed you are with McDavid’s raw talent.

“First of all, I think the overall skill set is phenomenal. It’s one of the best ever. I would say one of the top five skill sets of all-time. He has the ability to hang onto pucks in traffic to warrant double, triple coverage, then get the puck to the open man. He’s got everything. And his unselfishness. He has the ability to score 70 goals if he just wanted to score, but the best players make the right play. I think that’s more important. Not only does he make the right play but he has the ability to make those around him better."

You won the Stanley Cup as captain of the Oilers and New York Rangers. The Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award is named in your honor. What do you see in McDavid when it comes to leadership?

“When they were losing early in the season, hard decisions had to be made. And that’s what happens in the evolution of a great player, not just by example. Work ethic matters. Body language matters. Relationships matter. And I’m not just talking about wearing the captain’s 'C.' I’m talking about leading in so many ways, and we’ve seen that in the playoffs here. Getting to the Stanley Cup Final and finding yourself down 3-0, that’s when you really look to someone and need to have a voice and example to calm everyone down. Connor does an incredible job of that, and I’m only talking about what I’ve seen so far, and what I’ve seen so far, I’ve never seen him point a finger. He's never blamed anyone, he’s never complained when they lose.”

He was made the youngest captain in NHL history when he received the honor on Oct. 5, 2016, at the age of 19. That’s a lot of pressure, especially for a fabled franchise like the Oilers that have had captains like Gretzky and yourself in the past. How have you seen him evolve in that role?

“Look, people around the team are watching him, people in Edmonton are watching him, people around the country are watching him. It’s not easy. There are hard decisions that have to be made. That’s how you grow as a leader. And I can tell you it’s hard, not knowing what’s in front of you or what you’re capable of until you are faced with it. It’s an enormous amount of pressure about the team and about bringing the Cup back to Canada. They’re all watching him. The world is watching him. And I can’t say enough good things about the way he’s handled things. It’s been remarkable.”

Finally, with McDavid just entering his prime at the age of 27, how high can his ceiling be when all is said and done?

“We talked earlier about his remarkable skill set, but for me, that’s not the important thing. It’s his leadership. Thrust into the situation that he is from the people around him. That’s a big ask from a young player, a young captain, but he’s at the point in his career where he’s making the people around him better. And that’s only going to continue. He’s developed the ability to bring everybody into the fold. That’s the next evolution. And we’ve seen that in these playoffs. Trying to find ways to win. It’s been a fascinating evolution, and it’s going to be fun to watch for the next 10 years.”

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