CHICAGO -- Mark Messier, who started his Hall of Fame career with the Edmonton Oilers, spent five minutes chatting with top prospect Connor McDavid on Monday at United Center.
Messier said he came away thoroughly impressed with the potential future star of the Oilers, who are expected to select McDavid with the No. 1 pick at the NHL Draft on June 26.
"What a fine young gentleman, very down to earth and very honored, genuinely so, to be in the position that he is," Messier said of McDavid in a press conference prior to Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final to promote the Bridgestone Mark Messier Leadership Award. "I think the thing that struck me the most was how well-versed [McDavid] was in the history of the game and how much appreciation he had for the players that have carved the path for these young kids. He has a real sense for the history and tradition of the game, which I find very admirable."
The finalists for the Messier Award are Andrew Ladd of the Winnipeg Jets, Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks and Ryan Getzlaf of the Anaheim Ducks.
Messier said he didn't want to cram 40 years of experience down McDavid's throat during a five-minute chat, but he did offer him some advice, using Wayne Gretzky as the selling point.
"I always remember that Wayne said he owed everything to the game of hockey and that his first priority always defaulted back to hockey and what it took to prepare to get himself ready to play and compete at the highest level," Messier said. "As the kids go through this process, there's a lot of demands on their time, but ultimately what will sustain him is being able to concentrate on the single thing that is most important, and that is to actually get himself ready to play the game. That's what Wayne did and did well, probably better than anybody. He was ready to play the game and he prepared himself and everything else took a backseat.
"The demands that were on [Gretzky] for his time, the same thing will be asked of not only Connor McDavid, but a lot of the young guys. They have to always keep in mind that the No. 1 priority is to get themselves prepared to play the game on the ice."
Messier was born and raised in Edmonton. He played with the Oilers from 1979-91, winning the Stanley Cup five times, including four with Gretzky. He said if McDavid goes to Edmonton, he can expect to be stepping into a great sports environment.
"How many cities would sell out a championship 30-something years after the fact to have a reunion?" Messier said, referring to the Oilers' celebration earlier this season for the 30-year anniversary of their first Stanley Cup. "It kind of speaks volumes for the passion that is there.
"If he goes to Edmonton, I know the people there. I know [Oilers owner] Daryl [Katz] since we were kids. I know what kind of owner he is and the passion he has for the game and the Oilers. I know what kind of experience he's going to have living in that city. There is no negative in any of this no matter where he goes. There are 30 great franchises. Edmonton was lucky enough to get the No. 1 draft selection this year, and if they pick him they're picking an incredible hockey player, an incredible kid; that's going to an incredible franchise with an incredible rich history of championship hockey there. It would be an amazing partnership."
One made easier, Messier said, because the city of Edmonton has experience in handling a player who requires special attention because of his special ability.
"Edmonton has handled it before with Wayne and the special attention he needed because of the demands that were put on him, not only from the media in the NHL but also from the attention he got around Canada from town to town," Messier said. "Edmonton is well-versed in a player like Connor. If he does go that direction, he's going to an incredible place."