Wayne Gretzky knows a thing or two about the NHL’s record book.
As the all-time leader in points, goals and assists, Gretzky has an eye for players who may some day come after his own records, and in watching Vancouver Canucks super rookie Elias Pettersson’s assault on the Canucks first-year record book he sees a lot of his own budding greatness in the Swedish phenom.
“From my point of view, he’s got a lot of my similarities,” Gretzky said on Sportsnet 650 Monday morning. “His hockey sense and his playmaking ability is as good as anybody right now, and that’s probably where the comparisons come from — much more the playmaking than anything else.”
Pettersson, who just turned 20 on Monday, leads the Canucks this season with 17 points and 10 goals scored, in only 12 games. His stellar play, Gretzky says, should give Canucks fans a lot of optimism moving forward, even after the retirement of franchise icons Daniel and Henrik Sedin.
“I’ve had the chance to see him a couple times on TV and he’s fun to watch, and he plays the game with a great deal of passion and energy,” said Gretzky. “It’s exactly what the people of Vancouver needed to move on after the Sedin era.”
It’s clear in those games Gretzky’s seen of Pettersson, he’s been very impressed, as he not only sees a little bit of himself in the 2017 NHL Draft’s fifth-overall pick, but also a little bit of Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby, another one of Gretzky’s favourite players to watch.
“A guy like Pettersson plays probably more in line with the way Sidney plays or even the way I played in that he’s gotta utilize his eyes and his hockey sense and rely on his instinct and ability on the ice because he’s not a big guy.”
Gary Bettman has been “outstanding for the game”
Among other topics Gretzky discussed on Sportsnet 650 Monday was NHL commissioner Gary Bettman getting the Hall of Fame nod.
The Great One believes Bettman’s been particularly great for the growth of the sport outside of the larger markets.
“Probably, one of the biggest things he could’ve done for Canada and for the small-market teams, was getting the salary cap,” Gretzky said. “That really cemented the fact that teams like Calgary and Edmonton and Ottawa, and places like Phoenix and even places like St. Louis and Tampa Bay, the smaller-market places had a chance to compete against teams like Philadelphia and Toronto and Chicago and New York. And so, from that point of view, he stabilized the whole entire National Hockey League.
“Now, do they have some issues and problems with a couple of the teams? No question. But our sport has gotten bigger throughout North America. I think about how Winnipeg is back in the National Hockey League now, and they can compete on the level of the Torontos and the Montreals, whereas, when they originally moved in the ’90s, their payroll was at $23 million and Philadelphia’s was at $75 million. So you just can’t compete.”
Reaching an accord on concussions
Additionally, Gretzky also touched on the tentative non-class settlement the NHL came to with players over concussions.
“My kids ask me, ‘Dad, did you have any concussions?’ Back then if you got hit and you had a headache they’d say, ‘Take two Aspirins and come to practice tomorrow and we’ll sweat it out of you.’ We didn’t know what we were dealing with. And so, thankfully, over time we’ve gained way more knowledge on concussions and take them more seriously and it’s good to see that the NHL and the players have finally reached an agreement on some of the issues that took place.”
You can listen Gretzky’s entire appearance on Monday in the audio player above.