In case you are one of the many hockey fans out there wondering: Yes — it's too early to put the dynamic duo of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl in the same category as Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri.
But the former first overall draft pick and the German power forward are certainly making a case for heading in that direction.
While the Edmonton Oilers were struggling over the last few seasons, McDavid and Draisaitl were honing their crafts and molding into a team-leading force. This season Edmonton has transitioned from a top-heavy offense to a Pacific Division threat while this two-man scoring machine has reached new heights and taken over the league.
So how do they compare to some of the greatest duos in NHL history?
From a scoring standpoint, there's no denying that McDavid and Draisaitl have the league beat this season. As The Hockey News recently pointed out, this combo's single-season success is reminiscent of the campaign Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr put together in Pittsburgh during the 1995-96 campaign. There also were the "Hull & Oates" days in St. Louis in the early '90s, when Brett Hull and Adam Oates gave opponents nightmares thanks to their amazing chemistry and goal-scoring prowess. With how electric McDavid and Draisaitl have been thus far, the comparisons are clear.
It doesn't hurt, either, that the two have connected for a couple of nifty-looking goals so far this season. Think of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg finding the back of the net.
But while single-season scoring power is impressive, it's also longevity in the league that plays a big role when it comes to identifying the NHL's greatest duos. With that in mind, the McDavid-Draisaitl union is a long way from cementing itself into the record books as did duos like Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull or Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis. (Both of those twosomes played together for 13 seasons.)
How the duo impacts the team is a whole other story, though. Given that the Oilers haven't made it further than the second round of the playoffs since McDavid and Draisaitl joined the ranks, and with the league currently at 31 teams, it isn't quite right to compare the Edmonton twosome with past duos who won multiple Stanley Cups together. Sure, Maurice and Henri Richard, for example, led the Montreal Canadiens to a record-setting five consecutive championships, but there were also only six teams in the league at that time.
Nevertheless, hoisting Lord Stanley's mug still says a lot about a duo's legacy. So to be in the same category as Gretzky and Kurri, they'll need to lift at least one Cup, and that's just for starters.
Which brings us back to comparing the McDavid-Draisaitl unit with other Oilers greats, and that is where things get interesting. There is still constant fan debate as to whether the better Edmonton duo was Gretzky paired with Kurri or with Mark Messier, mainly because Gretzky and Messier didn't play on a line together. (Then again, McDavid and Draisaitl aren't playing together as of late, so perhaps that comparison isn't too far-fetched.)
But what makes the Gretzky-Kurri unit so timeless was their success both as a twosome as well as with how they played with the rest of their team — sandwiched during the period in which Edmonton won four Cups is Gretzky's record-setting 215-point season, a season in which Kurri tallied 131 points of his own.
With Draisaitl already beyond the 100-point mark this season and McDavid not far behind, the modern-day Edmonton duo is poised to make a similar regular-season impact, although adding a Stanley Cup Final would make the year even sweeter.
Perhaps the real goal for the McDavid-Draisaitl union is becoming one of the modern league's dynasty duos. Think Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, or Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Like the Penguins' and Blackhawks' twosomes, the young Oilers duo is on the cusp of adding to the arsenal of individual hardware — McDavid has, of course, nabbed himself a Hart Trophy as well as two Art Ross honors and two Ted Lindsays, while Draisaitl could be adding to that collection since he should be a shoo-in to win the scoring title. This is particularly reminiscent of the Crosby-Malkin combo at the start of the last decade, which has made the Penguins the team with the most Art Ross Trophy winners.
Sure, helping Edmonton make a long run in the playoffs is probably still necessary to put McDavid and Draisaitl in the same category as some of the most memorable duos in the NHL.
From the looks of things, though, this combination could be headed in that direction.
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