In a year in which Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby again will be vying for the Stanley Cup, it’s only appropriate that two new stars are itching to make their own names.
Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and Toronto’s Auston Matthews, both former No. 1 overall picks, have been making waves this season and The Great One has taken notice.
"It's just one of the best things that has happened to the NHL since Crosby and Ovechkin," HockeyHall of Famer and all-time scoring leader Wayne Gretzky wrote in a text to The Associated Press. "Should be fun for all."
McDavid, all of 20 years old, led the NHL in scoring this season with 100 points (30 goals), and Matthews led all rookies with 69 points (40 goals).
Both led their teams to the playoffs after the Oilers had not been in 10 seasons and the Maple Leafshad missed out in 10 of the last 11,the last three in a row.
"Guys like Matthews, and obviously Connor [McDavid], the game's always been in good shape. We just keep finding, not only good hockey players, but really good people that come along every 10, 15 years,” Gretzky said in an interview with NHL.com in October. “That's what always makes our game so special and so unique. The players are good and they're really good people and that's what makes it fun."
The two young men were seen as saviors for their franchises and have thus far lived up to the hype.
"I think for all of us, everybody wants to up their game," Matthews said. "Everybody wants to be known as a guy that comes through in pressure situations."
The Oilers are facingthe San Jose Sharks in the first round while Matthews and the Maple Leafs are taking on Ovechkin’s Washington Capitals.