Thursday, April 27, 2017

Wayne Gretzky on McDavid vs. Kesler: Utilize Assets

Wayne Gretzky says that Connor McDavid doesn't need his advice on dealing with Ryan Kesler being his full-time shadow as the Oilers battle the Ducks in their best-of-7 second round series.

"That's part of the game," says Gretzky, who spend his whole career as the opponent's main target and was often shadowed by defensive specialists. "Playoffs are hard. Right now the Ducks are as good as anybody. Kesler's a leader of that and Getzlaf plays hard. It's a long series and there's a lot of hockey left. Tonight was just the beginning."

McDavid spent most of the night being shadowed by Anaheim's Ryan Kesler, but late in the game Ducks coach Randy Carlyle matched him up with Ryan Getzlaf. Carlyle didn't make much of the personnel shift--he told reporters that it had to do more with where the face-offs were than with who he wants to match up with the McDavid line after Game 1 on Wednesday.

"It was based upon where the face-offs were," he said. "It was more about getting offensive zone face-offs. Getzlaf I thought had a big game for us." No matter who is out there trailing him around, Gretzky says that McDavid has dealt with it all his whole career, and he'll be fine.

Gretzky says that Kesler ranks up there pretty high among the NHL's defensive centers. "Kesler is probably one of the best checkers that he's ever played against until this point and time in his career. You can't worry about it. You have to utilize your assets. For Connor his assets are obviously his hockey sense, his speed and his teammates and linemates. Right now [Leon] Draisaitl is playing about as well as anybody in the NHL and his teammates are contributing in a significant way."

McDavid finished with an assist and a plus-1 last night in 20:53 of total ice time for the Oilers. His linemate Draisaitl put up four points during Edmonton's 5-3 win.

"He doesn't get enought credit," McDavid said of the German last night. "I don't think people talk about him enough. This is a great opportunity for him to step right into the spotlight."