A pair of Oilers legends have expressed high praise for 2015 NHL Draft top prospect Connor McDavid this week.
On Tuesday, Wayne Gretzky told the media that McDavid is the best to come into the draft in a long time.
"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 (Mario) Lemieux and (Sidney) Crosby," Gretzky said. "He can definitely change a franchise's fortunes.”
The Oilers won Saturday’s draft lottery and the right to choose first overall in the draft. McDavid is NHL Central Scouting’s top-ranked North American skater.
Gretzky’s old teammate, Hockey Hall of Famer and former Oilers star defenceman Paul Coffey, also has great things to say about McDavid. The 18-year-old played minor hockey with the Toronto Marlboros of the Greater Toronto Hockey League. It just so happens that Coffey, who has coached the Marlboros AAA team, has watched McDavid play for a while.
“I’ve watched him for four years,” said Coffey. “He was a Toronto Marlie and I coached the Marlie team all the way up to a couple years younger than him. Marlie night is Marlie night. It’s Friday night and we play and my boy, who is a year younger, would always want to stay and watch those guys play.”
His observations fall in line with the public opinion.
“Connor is special. He’s the real deal,” Coffey said. “I’m not saying this to put any added pressure on him or say things people have already said, but he’s definitely the real deal. Great kid, great family. It’s exciting. I sent him a note that, as a former Oiler, we’d be happy to have him here for sure.”
If he is an Oiler, Coffey says it’s just more motivation for him to continue watching McDavid’s career.
“I’m not big on staying up anymore, because I get the early start in the morning. But I’ve got to tell you, I’ll be staying up and watching more than a period now that’s for sure. I used to try and catch one period of Oilers games but (there would be) a reason to stay up longer for sure.”
When asked if McDavid is the game-changer for a franchise that most believe he could be, Coffey leaves no doubt to his opinion but stresses the need to surround a talent like him with the right support.
“100%, but he can’t do it by himself,” said Coffey. “Wayne (Gretzky) couldn’t do it by himself. That’s the way it is. You can’t do it by yourself. Everyone has to (help). When you get a talent like him or you get a talent like Wayne or a talent like Mario (Lemieux), it’s up to everyone else to keep up and get going because you don’t want him to come back down. You don’t want the special talent to come back down to anyone’s level. It’s up to everyone else to pick their game up higher. You get those special players in any sport and it’s up to everyone else to pick up their game and keep pace. Nobody can do it by themselves.”
On Wednesday, it was announced that Paul Coffey was named to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame’s Class of 2015. The former Oiler star defenceman has seen and done a lot of things in his life, including four Stanley Cups and a sport in the Hockey Hall of Fame. This new recognition is not just one to add to the pile.
“It’s not just another achievement,” Coffey said in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon. “The Hockey Hall of Fame is great, getting your number retired by a team is great, but Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, involved with all sports across the country, is not better but it has a different ring to it.”
Coffey looks back on his career, and when asked to rank his memories and achievements he couldn’t just pick one.
“They all rank the same,” said Coffey. “I said to somebody today, ‘as you get older and you’re lucky enough to achieve different things, it always comes back to the places you’re most comfortable and the championships you won.’ You could lead the league in scoring every year and get a billion goals, but to be a champion you share something with (others). The city of Edmonton, the Canada Cups, the Stanley Cup in Pittsburgh, (those are) to me, the most special.”
Coffey is a three-time Norris Trophy winner and four-time Stanley Cup champion (’84, ’85. ’87 with Edmonton and ’91 with Pittsburgh). He played in 14 NHL All-Star Games and won four Canada Cups in ’84, ’87 and ’91. Coffey was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2004, following a NHL career in which he played 1409 regular season games and 194 playoff games.
Paul Coffey was named as a member of Canada’s Hall of Fame Class of 2015 on Wednesday and had a chance to reflect on his time in Edmonton in a phone interview following the announcement.
“That’s where we all cut our teeth, so to speak,” Coffey said of Edmonton. “That’s where we all learned to do a lot of things on and off the ice. Your independence. We were all young, we were learning as we went. There are no instructions, no directions, there’s no book on how to act as an 18-year-old playing hockey in the NHL, you’ve got to figure it out by yourself.”
Coffey said the city of Edmonton and playing for the Oilers is a long list of memories he keeps close to him even now. It was the team that drafted him sixth overall in 1980, and gave him a chance to become a professional. The Hockey Hall of Famer and superstar defenceman returned to the city this past fall for the 1984 Stanley Cup reunion at Rexall Place.
“You know what the best part was? Nobody has changed,” said Coffey of the reunion. “Everybody is the same. We’re all older, but everybody is the same. Everybody has the stories and fortunately or unfortunately, everybody remembers them a little different. But the conversations were easy. The genuine concern about how everybody is doing was real. Everybody was interested in other guys’ families and how they’re doing, where they’re living and what they’re doing to keep busy. I enjoyed that the most. I don’t need to chat to a guy about what happened 30 years ago. That’s all fun for a short chuckle, but I think the interesting thing for me was to chat with everybody and see how they’re doing. Everybody is great and everybody was proud to come back to Edmonton.”
Coffey finished his career with over 1400 regular season NHL games under his belt, along with four Stanley Cup championships and 194 playoff games.
AUDIO: Craig MacTavish on Oilers Now | Leon Draisaitl on Oilers Now
Oilers General Manager Craig MacTavish joined Bob Stauffer on Oilers Now to discuss winning the draft lottery and the path ahead for the club. MacTavish was asked to describe the runaway top two prospects in the draft, Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel.
McDavid is NHL Central Scouting’s top-ranked North American skater for the 2015 NHL Draft. He recorded 120 points in just 47 games this season for the Erie Otters of the OHL. He leads the OHL in playoff scoring with 23 points in nine games. He also helped lead Team Canada to gold at the 2015 World Junior Championships.
“I think the most productive player the CHL has had in a number of years, but the most dynamic, the most electrifying,” said MacTavish of McDavid. “He is a guy that he looks like a shark when he’s playing hockey. He’s just looking to pounce at any time and he’s looking to get the puck and be in a position that he can get the puck at full speed. He’s got the most dynamic skill set that I’ve seen in a number of years, in terms of just bringing people out of their seats with open-ice plays.”
Eichel is the top American player, and second-ranked North American Skater by Central Scouting. Eichel won the Hobey Baker Award as the NCAA’s top player this season. As a freshman at Boston University, Eichel compiled 71 points in 40 games.
“Jack Eichel, his open-ice game is excellent as well,” said MacTavish. “He maybe doesn’t put himself in as many positions as Connor would, but he’s a big guy that’s got electrifying speed. He’s at full speed in three strides and he shoots the puck like a BB. What he’s done at the NCAA level, in a more mature league, has been quite incredible for a 17-year-old.”
The Oilers will select first overall at the 2015 NHL Draft in Sunrise, FL (June 26-27).
“So much work goes into the draft and so forth. When you get lucky enough to win the lottery, in a year when you have franchise players at the top like you have this year, it’s quite incredible,” said MacTavish.
With the “generational” talents at the top of the draft, MacTavish wasn’t even entertaining the thought that the Oilers might trade the pick.
“No. That would be crazy in my mind.”
At his end-of-season press conference, Oilers General Manager Craig MacTavish declared next season a, “development” year. This, because of all of the youth currently on the roster and the potential of more on its way. After winning the draft lottery and being gifted with the first-overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, the Oilers might have altered their timeline just a bit.
Oilers General Manager Craig MacTavish was on Oilers Now with Bob Stauffer on Wednesday afternoon and he said that things “marginally” change now that they have the opportunity to add one of two “generational” talents that sit at the top of the draft.
If the Oilers selected Connor McDavid, MacTavish says it would give them three of the best, if not the best, players in the CHL playoffs. Leon Draisaitl and his Kelowna Rockets advanced to the WHL Western Conference Final. Darnell Nurse and his Sault Ste. Marie team will tango with McDavid’s Erie Otters in the OHL Western Conference Final.
“I think it marginally changes,” said MacTavish. “I said at the end of the year, before we were fortunate enough to win the lottery, it’d be a very important developmental year for us. I still believe that. We arguably have the three best players in the CHL right now and they’re going to be flowing into the program, certainly Leon. All three will. Next year, Leon is done with his junior eligibility, as is Darnell. The player we pick will be on our team next year.”
All that said, there is still work to do for the Oilers, and MacTavish believes it will be, “a very important developmental year.”
“We also talked about some very critical positions that we need improved upon,” said MacTavish. “Without getting into those specific too much, we’re highly motivated to improve our club so we can make the step everybody has been waiting for for quite some time. I think with a few critical adds, it will still be largely determined by the internal growth of our team and the guys that are flowing into the system for next year. We’ve got to make a few key personnel changes and improvements and I think that could ignite it quickly. It’s not as simple, in our minds, as we got the first pick, we’re off and running. We still need to do the things that we talked about at the end of the year.”
The Edmonton Oilers announced today, they have assigned centre Greg Chase to the American Hockey Leagues Oklahoma City Barons.
Chase, 20, spent time with the Calgary Hitmen and Victoria Royals of the Western Hockey League this season, accumulating 59 points (20G, 39A) and 59 penalty minutes in 61 games. He tied for second on the Royals in assists (39) and ranked fifth on the team in points (59) and goals (20).
The Sherwood Park, Alberta native also notched 11 points (7G, 4A) and six penalty minutes in 10 games during the 2014-15 WHL Playoffs.
The 6’0”, 188-pound centre has posted 221 points (78G, 143A) and 247 penalty minutes in 265 career WHL games. He has also appeared in 38 career playoff games, recording 32 points (15G, 17A) and 43 penalty minutes.
Chase appeared in five games with the Barons in 2013-14, posting one goal, four penalty minutes and a plus one rating.
The Edmonton Oilers selected Chase in the 7th round, 188th overall in the 2013 NHL Draft.
On Saturday, the Oilers were the winners of the NHL Draft Lottery and will pick first overall in the 2015 NHL Draft. With two “generational” talents at the top of draft boards, the Oilers are in prime position to make a turnaround.
“When this was drawn, I think every fan in this city, every Oilers fan in the country jumped through the roof and we’re so excited. I can tell you, I was sitting at home by myself and all I did was start to smile,” said Oilers Entertainment Group CEO Bob Nicholson.
The Oilers haven’t made any definitive announcements on who they will take with the first-overall pick. There are steps left to complete before the draft is held in Sunrise, FL in June.
“In regards to the draft, there are playoff series going on right now and they should be focused on that,” Nicholson said of the top prospects. “We certainly know where we’re going to be picking on draft day, but there’s a process here and we want to live with that process. Saturday was a huge part of the Oilers here in the future. But from where I’m sitting, we have a lot of other things we’re going to look at and we have to make sure we take our time and make sure we get this right.”
On Monday, Oilers Entertainment Group announced that Bob Nicholson has been named Chief Executive Officer of OEG, effective immediately.
“Today I speak as the CEO of Oilers Entertainment Group and firstly, I want to thank to Daryl Katz,” said Nicholson. “Thanks for this honour. It’s a privilege and there’s a lot of responsibility that goes with this. I’m going to step to the plate and do the best job that I can do and I’m going to really trust my instincts.
Nicholson joined the organization as Vice-Chair of OEG in June of 2014. He will now expand his responsibilities and be much more hands on when it comes to every aspect of the organization, including hockey operations.
Nicholson, who retired as President & CEO of Hockey Canada in 2014, has a history of success overseeing the Canadian Men’s and Women’s National Teams. As OEG continues to formulate their plan of attack moving forward, Nicholson says there are some pillars he wants to build around.
“There are a few words I want to throw out right now: loyalty, trust, teamwork, and that’s not with just the players on the ice. We’re going to have that through our whole organization. As we start to define what this organization is going to be we’re going to build around those words,” he said.
Everyone in the organization will now work under Nicholson moving forward.
“Really, the last 10 months, I’ve been Vice Chair really looking over the whole organization,” said Nicholson. “Now everyone in the organization reports directly to myself so I’m going to be rolling up the sleeves and being much more hands on with every part of the organization.”
The Oklahoma City Barons will play the San Antonio Rampage in the first round of the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup playoffs.
The series will be a best of five, with the first two games in Oklahoma City on Thursday, April 23 and Saturday, April 25. The rest of the series will be played in San Antonio.
Game 1: April 23, 2015 - 6 p.m. - San Antonio at Oklahoma City
Game 2: April 25, 2015 - 6 p.m. - San Antonio at Oklahoma City
Game 3: April 29, 2015 - 6 p.m. - Oklahoma City at San Antonio
Game 4*: May 1, 2015 - 6:30 p.m. - Oklahoma City at San Antonio
Game 5*: May 2, 2015 - 6:05 p.m. - Oklahoma City at San Antonio
* If Necessary all times listed as MDT
The Barons posted a 3-5-2-2 record against San Antonio this season. This will be the second time the Barons have played the Rampage in the post-season. OKC beat San Antonio in five games (4-1) in 2012.
All Barons games will be available, for a cost, at AHLlive.com.