When people ask Wayne Gretzky if the Edmonton Oilers might trade the No. 1 pick, the living legend laughs.
“Did Montreal trade the pick when they were going to get Guy Lafleur (in 1971)? 0r Pittsburgh with (Mario) Lemieux (1984) or (Sidney) Crosby (2005)? You don’t trade guys like that. Especially a player who’ll help your franchise and your city for the next 15 years,” Gretzky told Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal in a story about the next franchise-altering Oiler.
Gretzky told the newspaper he is rooting for 18-year-old phenom Connor McDavid — Edmonton’s lottery prize — much in the way Gordie Howe cheered on a young Gretzky.
“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 Lemieux and Crosby. He can definitely change a franchise’s fortunes,” Gretzky, 54, said.
”I think it’ll be a perfect fit for Connor in Edmonton. Not one bit is Edmonton a suffocating place to play. He’ll be treated like an Edmontonian. People will give him his privacy while they’re enamoured by his ability. I know the Oilers have gone through a lot the last few years (nine straight years out of the playoffs), but they’ll be patient with him. I know it’s a big step going from junior hockey to the NHL, but the Edmonton fans have been through that with (Mark) Messier and (Paul) Coffey and (Grant) Fuhr and myself.”
After the Oilers won Saturday’s lottery for the right to select McDavid first overall at June’s draft, Edmonton has already seen changes.
Bob Nicholson, a friend of Gretzky’s, was named CEO of the Oilers Monday. Now all hockey decisions rest with him and all hockey executives report to him.
And, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the Oilers wasted no time reaching out to free agent coach Todd McLellan, who cut ties with the San Jose Sharks Monday.
When you’re about to welcome the greatest player the NHL’s seen in decades, you better get your house in order.
“What I notice about Connor is he does the right things and he says the right things; he’s very mature for an 18-year-old who’s rated No. 1,” said Gretzky. “I’ve talked to him, and I’m fascinated by his maturity, being under the microscope.
“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.”