A pair of Oilers legends have expressed high praise for 2015 NHL Draft top prospect Connor McDavid this week.
On Tuesday, Wayne Gretzky told the media that McDavid is the best to come into the draft in a long time.
"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.”
The Oilers won Saturday’s draft lottery and the right to choose first overall in the draft. McDavid is NHL Central Scouting’s top-ranked North American skater.
Gretzky’s old teammate, Hockey Hall of Famer and former Oilers star defenceman Paul Coffey, also has great things to say about McDavid. The 18-year-old played minor hockey with the Toronto Marlboros of the Greater Toronto Hockey League. It just so happens that Coffey, who has coached the Marlboros AAA team, has watched McDavid play for a while.
“I’ve watched him for four years,” said Coffey. “He was a Toronto Marlie and I coached the Marlie team all the way up to a couple years younger than him. Marlie night is Marlie night. It’s Friday night and we play and my boy, who is a year younger, would always want to stay and watch those guys play.”
His observations fall in line with the public opinion.
“Connor is special. He’s the real deal,” Coffey said. “I’m not saying this to put any added pressure on him or say things people have already said, but he’s definitely the real deal. Great kid, great family. It’s exciting. I sent him a note that, as a former Oiler, we’d be happy to have him here for sure.”
If he is an Oiler, Coffey says it’s just more motivation for him to continue watching McDavid’s career.
“I’m not big on staying up anymore, because I get the early start in the morning. But I’ve got to tell you, I’ll be staying up and watching more than a period now that’s for sure. I used to try and catch one period of Oilers games but (there would be) a reason to stay up longer for sure.”
When asked if McDavid is the game-changer for a franchise that most believe he could be, Coffey leaves no doubt to his opinion but stresses the need to surround a talent like him with the right support.
“100%, but he can’t do it by himself,” said Coffey. “Wayne (Gretzky) couldn’t do it by himself. That’s the way it is. You can’t do it by yourself. Everyone has to (help). When you get a talent like him or you get a talent like Wayne or a talent like Mario (Lemieux), it’s up to everyone else to keep up and get going because you don’t want him to come back down. You don’t want the special talent to come back down to anyone’s level. It’s up to everyone else to pick their game up higher. You get those special players in any sport and it’s up to everyone else to pick up their game and keep pace. Nobody can do it by themselves.”