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

The shores will not rock in 2019

Atomique Productions announce Rock the Shores festival will not return in 2019, future is uncertain

Tsawout First Nation members opposed to logging on reserve land

Video footage taken from a plane shows an extensive logging operation that… Continue reading

Family still searching for missing Langford man two weeks after disappearance

Family hopeful he is alive, offering $10,000 reward

Victoria police concerned about missing man’s well-being

Delmer was reported missing on March 19

Fracking, economy, climate at centre of Green Party town hall in Metchosin

Green Party leader Elizabeth May and local candidate David Merner take questions from community

Victoria hosts ‘Ultimate Hockey Fan Cave’

The hockey cave was recently featured on a Netflix special

Fire crews battle large blaze at Courtenay hostel

Courtenay Fire Chief Don Bardonnex said nobody was injured

1,300 cruise ship passengers rescued by helicopter amid storm off Norway’s coast

Rescue teams with helicopters and boats were sent to evacuate the cruise ship under extremely difficult circumstances

B.C. university to offer first graduate program on mindfulness in Canada

University of the Fraser Valley says the mostly-online program focuses on self-care and well being

Province announces $18.6 million for B.C. Search and Rescue

The funding, spread over three years, to pay for operations, equipment, and training

Late-season wave of the flu makes its round in B.C.

BC Centre for Disease Control reported 50 per cent jump in flu cases in first weeks of March

Tofino’s housing crisis causing some to seek shelter at the local hospital

Tofino’s housing crisis is pushing the town’s ‘hidden homeless’ population into the forefront.

Sentencing judge in Broncos crash calls for carnage on highways to end

Judge Inez Cardinal sentenced Jaskirat Singh Sidhu to eight years

Wildlife activists slam B.C. business, clubs for ‘wolf-whacking’ contests

Chilcotin Guns, Creston Valley Rod and Gun Club and West Kootenay Outdoorsmen Club under fire

Most Read