Out with the old and in with the new? The young guns are chasing down Sidney Crosby’s status as top dog

 

By Alasdair Hooper

Three Stanley Cups, two Hart Memorial trophies, two Conn Smythe trophies – Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby has had quite a career.

The 30-year-old center has been the face of the NHL and the best player in the league for the last few years.

After coming back superbly from his concussion issues, between 2009 and 2012, Crosby is at the peak of his powers once again and with the Penguins winning back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017 it has cemented the captain’s status at the top.

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The number 87 is assured of his place in the discussion of the greatest hockey players in history but two incredible youngsters – 20-year-old Connor McDavid and 19-year-old Auston Matthews – are chasing him down as NHL top dog.

Edmonton Oilers captain McDavid is the more immediate threat to Crosby’s status following his first full injury-free season in Alberta – some already think he is the new number one.

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The Ontario-born star shone during the regular season as he finished as the NHL top scorer with 100 points (30 goals and 70 assists).

As a result of his outstanding displays he was awarded the 2017 Hart Memorial trophy as league MVP, becoming the third-youngest player to ever win it – behind Crosby and the great Wayne Gretzky.

McDavid was rewarded by the Oilers in the summer as they locked him down to an eight-year $100million extension with an average annual salary of $12.5million per year – the highest in the NHL.

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Edmonton know the extraordinary capabilities of the star they currently have on their hands. A cup win is surely on the cards in the near future.

For McDavid’s part he has openly admitted that he is not up to Crosby’s standard at the minute but at this rate it won’t be long until he is.

Yet over at the Toronto Maple Leafs – another long-suffering Canadian franchise – they have their very own star in the making.

Matthews, the first overall pick in the 2016 draft, had a barnstorming rookie NHL campaign.

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In amongst some sterling rookie competition – such as Patrik Laine and Zach Werenski – the Maple Leafs center fired in a stunning 40 goals and 29 assists to win the Calder Memorial trophy as the league’s top rookie.

There is absolutely no doubting his ability – the only question that remains is his consistency.

Matthews has only had one full season in the NHL and while a drop off isn’t expected it remains a possibility.

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Complete with his giant new lion tattoo if the reigning rookie of the year can roar the Leafs to success and deliver similar numbers once again then he will instantly catapult himself into the top tier of center’s in the league – and there are some seriously talented individuals in that position.

When you’re sitting pride of place at the top you are there to be shot at – that’s where Crosby finds himself at the moment.

This season there are two young generational talents looking to lead their teams, and the league, as number one star.

By this time next year, we could be talking about the dawn of the McDavid/Matthews era in the same way we discussed the Crosby/Alex Ovechkin era several years ago.

One thing is for sure – it’s going to be awesome to watch.

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