Gretzky believes that McDavid “is as good as he’s seen in the last 30 years”.

Connor McDavid (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

Connor McDavid (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

These are exciting times for the Edmonton Oilers and Connor McDavid. A generational talent has landed in Edmonton, where the Oilers have been struggling for the past 10 seasons. Fans in Edmonton are hoping that this will be the ticket to become a contending team. Wayne Gretzky had a chance to speak about the hockey prodigy and whether he can live up to all the hype.

The Comparisons

McDavid had been compared as the next Gretzky, Lemieux and Crosby numerous times on TV and print. Gretzky has this to say about those comparisons:

“I remember them comparing me to Guy Lafleur and Mike Bossy, then there was another kid who came along named Mario (Lemieux). Then it was Crosby,”

We have to remember that Wayne Gretzky was in the same situation as McDavid when he first played in Edmonton in the late 70’s. However, Gretzky experience was a little different than McDavid’s. He was coming from his high scoring days in junior hockey into the WHA, which was the second tier pro league that the Oilers played in at the time.

In 1979, the Oilers joined the NHL after the WHA folded. Even though Gretzky had some leeway time to play against older players before going to the NHL, he thinks McDavid will be just fine:

“Going right from junior to the NHL? That’s a big step for Connor. But he’s the one guy who can handle it. He’ll be fine. With his speed and his shot and his creativity and his hockey knowledge, that’s as good as anybody.”

With someone as skilled as McDavid, they can succeed as long as the right pieces are together. McDavid will fit in just fine with players like Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle. The Oilers have a great young offensive core to work with and can become an offensive powerhouse for seasons to come.

Maturity and Pressure

Theses things go hand in hand. After all, Connor McDavid is just a kid. 18 is a relatively young age to take on the pressures to become a future NHL superstar.

“He’s a really mature kid for 18 years old, he’s been under the spotlight for a long time, he’s handled himself both on the ice and off the ice with nothing but respect and class,”

“He’s going to love playing here, it couldn’t be a better scenario for him. It’s great for the Oilers fans, they’re going to get the chance to watch this kid grow up.”

It’s true that McDavid has been under some kind of pressure since his junior career, but he has passed every test so far. Personally, I have seen many interviews with McDavid and can certainly confident that he will be able to handle himself in Edmonton as much as he did in Erie. He always knows the right things to say and genuinely grateful about his opportunity to play in Edmonton.

However, Gretzky gave some advice for the young superstar about facing his expectations:

“I never feared it, but I’ll tell you what … you have to respect the game and the players you’re playing with and playing against. You come to learn really quickly that you have to work really hard or you’ll be out real fast.”

On Being The Next One

“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. He can definitely change a franchise’s fortunes,”

“I hope he brings Edmonton a Stanley Cup and he breaks my records … he’s got the talent and the makeup to do it. I hope he leaves a couple for me, though. I could use that.”

This is literally the seal of approval. Who would even dare to question The Great One with a comment like this. Even back when Sidney Crosby entered the league, Gretzky mentioned that Crosby had the potential to break his records. With McDavid entering his first game as an Oiler, Gretzky sees the same potential in McDavid. Gretzky was right with Crosby and can’t go wrong with McDavid.

Keeping Expectations at Bay

Overall, it’s exciting to hear that the next Oilers superstar has great potential. However, the important thing for fans is to calm down a bit and turn down the excitement meter just a touch.

Don’t get me wrong, I think that McDavid is going to be a great player for years to come, but to put all these expectations to break Gretzky’s records, win scoring titles, win the Calder, get the Oilers to the Stanley Cup Finals and save your cat from a tall tree in the first season is insane. Too much expectations will lead to disappointment.

As long as McDavid takes Gretzky advice and is surrounded by the right people, I’m sure the all the titles, awards and Stanley Cups will come along the way. For Oilers fans, all we need to do is sit back and enjoy the show.

Follow me on Twitter: @TheAndyBabic

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