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The Next Gretzky?

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Rookie Connor McDavid is being hyped as the next big thing.

Edited by Tiffany Villigan

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The Edmonton Oilers haven't made the playoffs in nine seasons.

And that, quite frankly, is really really sad.

For a franchise that pretty much owned the 1980s, it's a far cry from what this once-proud organization used to be. In the '80s, it was Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Paul Coffey, and the splendid goaltending of Andy Moog, Grant Fuhr and Bill Ranford.

The Oilers kind of returned to prominence in the late 1990s with a string of playoff berths and a Cup Final appearance in 2006 featuring the talents of Chris Pronger, Ryan Smyth, Mike Peca, goalie heroics from Dwayne Roloson, and the surprise playoff performance of hometown hero Fernando Pisani, who had 14 goals for the Oilers in the postseason, including a Game 5 game winner to keep Edmonton alive in the series against Carolina.

Since then, it's been slim pickings.

Wayne Gretzky used to be the main man during the Oilers' salad days of the 1980s. (Courtesy of Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

The team hasn't made the playoffs since that magical run to the Cup Finals in 2006, and have had a string of bad finishes that would rank as some of the worst hockey in NHL history. Out of all the Canadian franchises, the Oilers are the only one that hasn't had a playoff appearance in the last 5 years.

Edmonton Oilers Since 2006 Cup Run

Year GP W L OTL PTS Playoff Appearances
2006-07 82 32 43 7 71 None
2007-08 82 41 35 6 88 None
2008-09 82 38 35 9 85 None
2009-10 82 27 47 8 62 None
2010-11 82 25 45 12 62 None
2011-12 82 32 40 10 74 None
2012-13 48 19 22 7 45 None (Lockout Shortened Season)
2013-14 82 29 44 9 67 None
2014-15 82 24 44 14 62 None
Totals
9 Seasons 704 267 355 82 616 0

Let's just say the Oilers haven't exactly wowed their fans in the last decade.

Despite the futility, Edmonton has gotten lucky in the NHL Draft, winning the number one overall pick four times in the last decade. The team has rebuilt their franchise with a young offense, led by Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall.

However, the team's commitment to young blood has come with problems. Despite having nice contributions, the team's main weakness has been defense. They ranked last in the NHL in goals allowed the last two seasons. It's definitely something that the team should have addressed eons ago.

But no matter how deficient the team has been on defense, they felt like they had to make a splash offensively in this year's NHL draft. Somehow, some way, the Oilers leapfrogged over the Buffalo Sabres in the 2015 NHL Draft, and took the best player available.

The best player was Connor McDavid.

The selection of the former Erie Otters phenom marked a season of changes for the Oilers. They named former Boston Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli as the new General Manager of the club. Also, former Sharks head coach Todd McLellan was appointed the new coach. Other changes made were the removal of GM Craig MacTavish and President of Hockey Operations Kevin Lowe. MacTavish now is the Vice President of Hockey Operations, where most of his duties are focused on the team's AHL farm club in Bakersfield, California. Lowe is now a Vice Chairman of Oilers Entertainment, which covers all of owner Daryl Katz's entertainment properties, including the Edmonton Oil Kings junior hockey team.

Dylan Strome, Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel were the first three players taken in the 2015 NHL Draft (Courtesy of Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Dylan Strome, Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel were the first three players taken in the 2015 NHL Draft. (Courtesy of Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

It marks a new era in Edmonton Oilers hockey. Not only did they add a great GM in Peter Chiarelli, a proven coach in Todd McLellan, but also a very exciting player in Connor McDavid. This kid has had the most hype put on him since Sidney Crosby entered the league, and some hockey experts are already crowning him the "Next Great One."

Connor McGretzky?

I think before we jump to conclusions, we should not compare him to anyone just yet. Crosby was compared to Gretzky, and while he has been absolutely amazing, he hasn't put up the stats Gretzky did. Also, it was a different era, as it was a more wide open game offensively in the 1980s, compared to Crosby's era, where the league is more evened out when it comes to offense and defense.

Sidney Crosby has always been compared to Wayne Gretzky. (Photo Courtesy of Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Fairly or unfairly, Sidney Crosby has always been compared to Wayne Gretzky. (Photo courtesy of Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

McDavid has the potential to be the next big superstar in the National Hockey League. His career in the Ontario Hockey League speaks for itself. Before injuring his hand in a fight on November 11th, McDavid was leading the OHL in points. When he returned, he picked up right where he left off, not missing a beat. He finished third in the OHL in scoring with 120 points, with 44 goals.

He has also been a valuable part of the Team Canada program, helping them win the 2015 World Junior Championship. He had a pretty remarkable tournament for Canada, grabbing 11 points in 7 games, and was named to the WJC All-Star Team.

Connor McDavid has also been a integral part of the Canadian Junior Team. (Photo courtesy of Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Connor McDavid has also been an integral part of the Canadian Junior Team. (Photo courtesy of Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The Oilers, who did eventually improve their defense by adding Andrej Sekera and Griffin Reinhart, hope that McDavid, Nugent-Hopkins, Hall and Eberle will add more scoring punch to the 2015-16 Oilers. The additions of McDavid, Sekera, Reinhart and new goalie Cam Talbot should have Oiler fans thinking of a possible playoff spot this year.

Many NHL insiders know about the hype this kid brings to the Oilers, including ESPN hockey insider Pierre LeBrun.

GM Chiarelli told the Edmonton Journal that even though a lot of people think McDavid will be one of the greats, everyone, including himself, will have to be patient with the 18-year-old rookie.

"Ever since we won the lottery and I got the job, I’ve told myself I have to try and temper expectations to help Connor. So you’re going to hear me temper expectations about him for a long time. I want to make sure he gets up and running (because) he’s going to have his ups and downs (but) he is a terrific player. He’s going to really help our franchise when he gets up and running."

If you live in the Seattle or Bellingham area and get CBC or Rogers Sportsnet, or just plan on making the trip up to British Columbia to see the young phenom, you have a few chances.

The Connor McDavid Northwest Tour
Date Game Venue Network
10/18/15 Oilers @ Canucks Rogers Arena-Vancouver Rogers Sportsnet 1
12/26/15 Oilers @ Canucks Rogers Arena-Vancouver Hockey Night in Canada (various networks)
04/09/16 Oilers @ Canucks Rogers Arena-Vancouver Hockey Night in Canada (various networks)

Will this kid be as good as Gretzky? I think it's apples and oranges. Gretzky played in an era where teams were scoring 6-7 goals a night, sometimes 10-11. The defense and goaltending just wasn't as good as it is now. That being said, I can totally see this guy getting 70 points his rookie year, and then improving every year after that. I think he will be neck and neck with his ex Erie Otters teammate Dylan Strome for the Calder Trophy, with Jack Eichel finishing third.

And the Edmonton Oilers?

They are on the right track for recovery.