Wayne Gretzky was “The Great One” and Mario Lemieux was “The Magnificent One.”
The hockey world is always looking for a new superstar to transcend the sport.
Eric Lindros, Sidney Crosby and John Tavares were dubbed “The Next One” as teenagers. Sergei Fedorov, Peter Forsberg, Jaromir Jagr, Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne were among the players featured with Gretzky in a mid-1990s video called “The Great One and the Next Ones.”
Now, it’s Connor McDavid’s turn to wear the label and carry the burden that goes with all that hype. The 18-year-old McDavid has added pressure playing in Edmonton, where Gretzky won four Stanley Cup titles.
“Pressure is something I’ve been dealing with for a long time,” McDavid said after the Oilers picked him No. 1 overall in the NHL draft. “It’s something I’m comfortable with.”
It’s safe to say no one will ever come close to Gretzky’s level. He dominated the NHL like no player in any other team sport. Gretzky was a nine-time MVP who held or shared 61 career records at one point. His 2,857 points are 970 more than the No. 2 player on the scoring list. That’s like baseball hits leader Pete Rose having 2,188 more hits than Ty Cobb instead of just 67.
For McDavid, leading the Oilers to the playoffs will be the first step. Edmonton has missed the
Here’s a look at how some other players anointed “The Next One” have fared:
LINDROS: He spurned the Nordiques and the entire province of Quebec by refusing to play in the NHL’s smallest market and forcing a complicated trade. Lindros ended up with the Philadelphia Flyers after an arbiter ruled the Nordiques made a deal with them before they agreed to another trade with the New York Rangers. The Flyers gave up a ton to get Lindros. Forsberg was part of the deal and he ended up helping the Avalanche win a Stanley Cup championship after the franchise moved from Quebec to Colorado. Lindros was the NHL MVP in his third season, but the Flyers were swept by Detroit in their only Finals appearance with him. Lindros’ career was slowed by concussions and his parents clashed with former GM Bob Clarke, who stripped No. 88 of his captaincy and traded him to the Rangers after letting him sit out a full season.
CROSBY: He’s a two-time MVP who led the Pittsburgh Penguins to a Stanley Cup championship in 2009. When healthy, Crosby is arguably the best player in hockey. He’s a two-time scoring champion with five 100-point seasons. But Crosby also has been plagued by concussions and injuries. He’s missed at least half the season three times in his first 10 years. Crosby is only 28, so he has plenty of time left to at least match Lemieux’s two Cup victories. Regardless, Sid the Kid will go down as one of the best players in NHL history.
TAVARES: He broke Gretzky’s Ontario Hockey League record for goals as a 16-year-old, scoring 72 in 67 games in the top level of junior hockey. Tavares hasn’t scored more than 38 goals or cracked 100 points in his first six seasons with the New York Islanders. But he’s been a two-time finalist for MVP and he’s the face of a franchise that just moved to Brooklyn and has hopes of challenging for the Stanley Cup.
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Rob Maaddi, The Associated Press