Connor McDavid vs Wayne Gretzky: Who is Better?

While both are incredible players and the clear best of their eras, I need to give the edge to Wayne Gretzky over Connor McDavid when it comes to who is the best. I believe his hockey intelligence, sense for the game, and scoring skills are second to none.

When many hockey fans think of the best player of all time, their mind instantly goes to The Great One, Wayne Gretzky. In recent years, however, Connor McDavid has added a little something to the conversation. 

He has taken the league by storm and has done things we haven’t seen in decades. But who is the best between the two? Keep reading to learn not only who I think is better, but why I feel that way.

Key Takeaways

  • It is very difficult to compare Gretzky to McDavid, as they played in very different eras, with huge differences in competition, equipment, nutrition, rules, and more.
  • McDavid is generally seen as a better skater, a more talented stickhandler, and a more physical player, whereas Gretzky has the edge in terms of intelligence, anticipation/sense for the game, and scoring prowess.
  • While both are among the best players ever, I give Gretzky a slight edge due to his unbelievable scoring numbers, his consistency, and his utter dominance over the rest of the league during his prime.

Difficult to Compare the Two

Before diving into my comparison and making my choice, I feel it’s important to mention that it is incredibly difficult to compare the two, as they obviously never played against each other or at the same time in the league.

Each played in a much different era. McDavid plays against better players, more talented teams, and better coaching. However, he also has access to better workout routines, diets, equipment, and knowledge than Gretzky ever had.

McDavid also plays in a much less physical era that gives him a lot more freedom with the puck, whereas Gretzky had to contend with a lot of physical play that wouldn’t be legal in today’s day and age.

Gretzky also played on the most dominant team of his era, with some of the best players ever like Jari Curri, Mark Messier, and Paul Coffey, just to name a few. On the other hand, McDavid has played on much worse teams thus far in his career.

Because of this difficulty in comparing the two, I tend to not take sides on this argument, and prefer to appreciate both of them as true legends of the sport. But for the sake of this guide, I’m going to take a look at a few things I think each of the players does better than the other.

Things McDavid Does Better

While Gretzky has a lot going for him in this battle, McDavid also has a leg up when it comes to a few things. One area I believe McDavid has a clear advantage is his speed on the ice. No one in the league can compete with his speed, and seeing him fly with the puck is a real treat.

He is a multi-time winner of the Fastest Skater competition, and his blistering speed helps him get past defenders and find loose pucks with ease. His stickhandling and puck control are also amazing, and watching him move the puck up and down the ice is like watching magic.

While he plays forward, he plays with more physicality than Gretzky did, and isn’t afraid to lay a few hits if need be.

Things Gretzky Does Better

When it comes to Wayne Gretzy and what made him great, it was largely his intelligence and game sense that set him apart. He was a true student of the game, and is widely regarded as the smartest player ever.

He wouldn’t out-muscle you to the puck or even blow by you with blistering speed, but he would always be in the right place at the right time. His anticipation was so good it almost felt like he knew where the puck (and other players) were going to be ahead of time.

Of course, we can’t talk about the greatness of Wayne Gretzky without mentioning his scoring. He scored at a pace that we have never (and may never) see again. He has far and away the most goals, assists, and total points in NHL history.

Ultimately, if I had to choose one of these players, it would be Gretzky. Sure, it was a different era and we can never be sure about who is the best, but the numbers he was able to put up and how consistent he was able to be throughout his career put him over the edge for me.

Also, Gretzky was far more dominant over his peers compared to McDavid vs. his peers, though both were the clear best players of their times. For example, Gretzky outscored the 2nd place point getter by much more than McDavid has throughout their Art Ross-winning seasons.

However, the fact that we are even talking about McDavid in the same breath as Wayne Gretzky is a testament to how great a player he has been, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him become the greatest once he retires.

FAQs

Here are a few commonly asked questions about this topic, as well as their answers.

Who was seen as the best player ever before Gretzky?

Before Wayne Gretzky, there was no consensus best of all time. However, if you asked around, most people would have told you either Gordie Howe or Bobby Orr was the best ice hockey player of all time.

Who is the closest to Wayne Gretzky in points?

Currently, the player closest to Wayne Gretzky’s point total is Jaromir Jagr. He has 1,921 career NHL points, which is still nearly 1,000 less than Gretzky scored. But by the end of his career, I wouldn’t be shocked to see McDavid in the conversation, too.

Final Thoughts

Both Connor McDavid and Wayne Gretzky are among the best hockey players of all time. While I think it’s closer than many other people believe, I still think Wayne Gretzky is the better player between the two.

Who do you think is the best hockey player of all time and why? Let me know in a comment below.

About Kale
Being from Canada, hockey is essentially a way of life. I instantly fell in love with the game since I was being put on skates. From playing as a child (and the occasional street hockey game with friends today) to being a fan for over 20 years, I’m here to share my knowledge and passion for hockey. Email: [email protected]

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