Calgary Flames president of hockey operations Brian Burke and Craig MacTavish, vice-president of hockey operations for the Edmonton Oilers, gave that assessment during the Every Kid Every Community speaker series.
The event, a fundraiser for minor hockey, the Olds Grizzlys and Olds College Broncos hockey, was held Friday at the Pomeroy Inn & Suites.
They were asked what players like those guys do for their respective teams.
“Well, it meant everything to our franchise to be able to draft that player,” MacTavish said regarding McDavid.
“And the combination – how effective he is – and how productive he is, combined with how entertaining he is to watch – I mean to me, the most entertaining part of the game is high-speed skill and he’s got that,” he added.
However, MacTavish said there’s more to MacDavid than that.
“He really has a lot of what Wayne Gretzky has in the way he respects the game, he respects the people in the game, he respects the trainers in the game, he respects the Zamboni driver in the game. He’s got time for everybody,” MacTavish said.
“It really belies the age of the player. He’s 21 now. You have to give his parents a lot of credit for him to be at that level and still be such a humble kid.
“He knows that he’s got the ability to impact other people and impact other charitable organizations and he’s certainly easy to deal with from that perspective as well.”
Burke agreed that McDavid is a once-in-a-generation kind of player.
“There’s only one player I’ve seen in 30 years who can – the average player can’t make plays at top speed. The average player has to plant his feet or slow down to make plays. And this kid makes plays at top speed,” he said.
“The only other guy I’ve seen do this was Pavel Bure, who could handle a puck at blinding speed and still make plays,” Burke added.
“This kid’s special, and I think we’re lucky. In our league, as our stars age, we seem to replace them. We’re lucky that way, to have a kid like this. I hate playing against him when we play him, but I love watching him otherwise.”
Burke said Gaudreau has some of those same qualities, although his style of play is different.
“He doesn’t have that explosive speed (but) he’s very quick. He’s dangerously exciting. He’s a better passer than he is anything else. He’s really a better setup man than he is a goal scorer because he again can find small seams and make plays,” he said.
“But like Craig was saying about Connor, this kid gets it too. He’s from humble beginnings outside of Philadelphia. His dad was a rink manager. He didn’t grow up with big money.”
Burke told a story relayed to him by Gaudreau’s dad about how he persuaded his young son to learn to skate.
“When he was little, he didn’t really want to skate so (his dad) put Skittles on the ice,” Burke said, sparking laughter. “Every 20 or 30 feet, Johnny would skate from Skittle to Skittle,” he said, causing even more laughter. I’m not making this up; you can’t make stuff like that up.
“But he’s 165 pounds with a brick in each pocket and he’s still exciting and sells tickets and he gets the community side too.”
“In our league, as our stars age, we seem to replace them. We’re lucky that way, to have a kid like this. I hate playing against him when we play him, but I love watching him otherwise.”
PRESIDENT OF HOCKEY OPERATIONS CALGARY FLAMES REGARDING CONNOR MCDAVID