Skip to main content

NHL icon Mark Messier explains how Connor McDavid ‘separated himself’ this season

NHL: Edmonton Oilers at Pittsburgh Penguins
Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Could this be the season Connor McDavid leads the Edmonton Oilers to the Stanley Cup?

Former Oilers legend and NHL icon Mark Messier believes so. And interestingly, Messier points not to McDavid’s 103 points nor how he helped lift the Oilers after an abysmal start to the season, but to what happened at NHL All-Star Weekend as a big reason why.

“To me, he took a big step forward in the All-Star Game, really showing the leadership and the capability that he had and proving that he was the best hockey player in the world,” Messier said on the Jackie Redmond Show. “We can all debate it, but now we know this year who’s the most skilled hockey player in the world.”

McDavid won the overall skills competition at NHL All-Star Weekend in Toronto. But it’s how he competed and was driven to show he’s the best player in the world that stood out to Messier. 

“It was more so the effort that he put into it and the leadership that he showed that it was OK to expose yourself and give 100 percent in that environment,” Messier explained. “To me, that might’ve been the best skill he displayed this year, his leadership at that All-Star Game.”

In other words, it’s one thing to be among the best players in the world at such an event. It’s another to be driven to prove you’re the best. That drive is what sets apart McDavid this season, his fourth straight (and seventh in the past eight) with 100+ points.

“He had the most pressure on him to win it and he delivered. I think that says a lot about him as a player and as a person and as a leader,” Messier said.

Related: Devils not ‘perennial contender,’ fire Lindy Ruff as coach

Connor McDavid’s growth as leader stands out to NHL legend Mark Messier

NHL: NHL Awards Red Carpet
Jun 26, 2023; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Former NHL player Mark Messier arrives on the red carpet before the 2023 NHL Awards at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Not surprisingly, Messier circled back to leadership. There’s a reason why the NHL award for leadership is named after Messier. His six Stanley Cup championships (five with the Oilers, one with the New York Rangers) are a testament to that.

So is his two word nickname: The Captain.

And Messier, the ultimate team captain, is impressed that the great McDavid might be becoming more of a true leader now. Which makes the Oilers a scary opponent during the postseason.

“To me it all boils down to taking that initiative, taking the leadership role to go out there and give the fans what they wanted and to give 100 percent effort,” Messier said about McDavid at All-Star. “It’s not easy to do. … It’s the maturation of the player on the ice and the skill set, but also the confidence to go out there and be yourself.”

Since McDavid’s first season in 2015-16, the Oilers have made the Stanley Cup Playoffs five of eight seasons. They advanced past the first round once, swept by the Colorado Avalanche in the 2022 Western Conference Final.

The Oilers are currently second in the Pacific Division. Edmonton fortified for the playoffs, adding Adam Henrique, Sam Carrick and Troy Stecher ahead of the trade deadline last week, and Corey Perry two months ago.

And after an epic 16-game winning streak earlier in the season, it feels like the Oilers are legit Cup contenders this season.

And Messier believes he sees something different in McDavid, that could lead the Oilers to new heights.

Mentioned in this article:

More About: