Gretzky buzzing over McDavid, Matthews’ NHL playoff debuts

Gretzky buzzing over McDavid, Matthews' NHL playoff debuts

It’s 2005-06 all over again for Wayne Gretzky when it comes to youngsters Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews making their NHL playoff debuts.

The Great One couldn’t help but share his enthusiasm in a text to The Associated Press, comparing McDavid and Matthews’ arrival on the post-season stage with the same buzz generated during Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin’s rookie seasons.

“It’s just one of the best things that has happened to the NHL since Crosby and Ovechkin,” Gretzky wrote. “Should be fun for all.”

The comparison isn’t far off so far given how McDavid, the Edmonton Oilers’ second-year captain, and Matthews, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ rookie of the year candidate, have taken the league by storm.

McDavid in 2015 and Matthews last year were selected with the No. 1 pick in consecutive drafts, as were Ovechkin (2004) and Crosby (2005).

Gretzky also has ties to both McDavid and Matthews. Aside from playing for the Oilers, he is now a team partner and vice chairman. He also coached the Arizona Coyotes last decade and made an impression on Matthews, who is from Scottsdale, Arizona.

McDavid is considered an MVP finalist after leading the league with 100 points, and helping the Oilers end a 10-year playoff drought. Matthews led NHL rookies with 40 goals and 69 points in helping the youth-laden Maple Leafs make the jump from dead last a year ago to 14th and clinch the franchise’s second playoff berth in 12 seasons.

McDavid had an assist in a 3-2 overtime series-opening loss to San Jose on Wednesday, and said the Oilers lacked finish.

“I don’t know whether they raised their game or our game fell off,” McDavid said. “I thought maybe we got a little comfortable, which can’t happen.”

Matthews was making his playoff debut on Thursday at Washington. Before the game, Matthews shared Gretzky’s excitement about McDavid and other young stars getting their first taste of the playoffs.

“For a second year in the league, you see a lot of young guys making the playoffs and teams that weren’t so good that are now making it into the playoffs,” Matthews said. “I think it’s awesome for the guys in this room, especially all the rookies. It’s something that we’ve yet to experience it at this level, so we’re looking forward to it.”

Even though he’s making his playoff debut, Matthews isn’t shying away from Toronto coach Mike Babcock’s assertion that the best players are judged by championships.

Gretzky has four.

“You’re kind of measured on that,” Matthews said. “I was fortunate to be coached by Claude Lemieux. He was always just an above-average player, I guess, in the regular season and then come playoff time he won a Conn Smythe, he won a couple Cups. He just elevated his level. That’s why he’s known as the player that he is today.”

And that represents the challenge for a Maple Leafs team that had seven rookies play at least 55 games this season.

“I think for all of us, everybody wants to up their game,” the 19-year-old Matthews said. “Everybody wants to be known as a guy that comes through in pressure situations.”

Gretzky was 23 when he won his first Cup in 1984.

___

AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno in Washington contributed to this story.

___

More AP NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

John Wawrow, The Associated Press

Just Posted

Local boys raise money for sick children in unconventional way

Four local boys have found a way to use their passion for… Continue reading

Skid Steer stolen from Sparwood Transfer Station

Elk Valley RCMP are seeking the public’s assistance with a theft that… Continue reading

Golf pro has big plans for Sparwood Golf Course

Golf pro looks to a promising future for golf in Sparwood

Ghostriders show grit and tenacity

Hard work and heartbreak; a reoccurring theme in Fernie’s past two hockey… Continue reading

Fernie Swim team aims for Nationals

Aidan Chudleigh has high hopes for his swim team this year, and… Continue reading

VIDEO: Rare comic showing Superman’s 1st appearance to be auctioned

The 1938 comic features Superman hoisting a car over his head

Sparwood florist to compete nationally

The Maple Leaf Cup; where art and flower design meet under one… Continue reading

B.C. reporter reflects on covering Charles Manson

Charles Manson, leader of a murderous cult, died on Sunday at 83

ICBC overbilling for crash repairs not the problem, dealers say

Collision repair shops reject union claim of inflated costs

B.C. groups to address child sex abuse in sports

viaSport is organizing a full day of education in association with Canadian Centre for Child Protection and the Coaching Association of Canada.

Report sets exercise guidelines for young kids, including ‘tummy time’ for babies

Kids aged one to four should get at least three hours of physical activity throughout the day

Stampeders return to Grey Cup with 32-28 win over Edmonton Eskimos

The Stampeders will face the Toronto Argonauts next Sunday in Ottawa for the title

Nebraska approves TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline

Nebraska’s Public Service Commission approved TransCanada’s Keystone XL route in a close vote

B.C. VIEWS: China a better partner than U.S.

B.C. is slowly winning the softwood lumber war

Most Read