Next one: Crosby or Ovechkin?

point - counterpoint

point

All eyes will be on Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin when the puck finally drops next month. They have been dubbed the potential saviours of the NHL, the future heroes of a league stumbling into a new era. For the first time two number one draft picks will be introduced to the NHL at the beginning of the same season.

Unfortunately the battle for top spot in the NHL’s future hierarchy seems to have already been handed to Crosby, at least in North America. His statistics are staggering; he registered 168 points in 62 games last season with the Rimouski Oceanic. Of those 168 points, 102 of them were assists, showing that the two-time CHL Player of the Year is not only a sensational talent, he’s also an unselfish person.

Super Crosby has quite literally stolen the show from Ovechkin. The NHL lockout kept the Russian star from what should have been his rookie season in 2004; a season that would have granted him an almost exclusive place in the rookie spotlight. This year the odds seem to be against him as he enters the league at the same time as an 18-year-old being dubbed the “Next Great One”.

However, we may have counted Ovechkin out too soon. The 6’2”, 212-pound left winger is eager to prove that he is the new face of the NHL. Ovechkin’s stature is far more likely to be able to play with the big boys of the NHL than Crosby’s 5’11”, 193 pound frame. Ovechkin registered 26 points in 37 games in the Russian Super League last season. His statistics seem to pale in comparison to Crosby’s 168 points. However, stats can be deceiving. The Russian Super League is a more challenging and advanced league than the one that Crosby tore apart. It’s a league of seasoned warriors, in which Ovechkin was able to attain a plus-minus rating of +28. For the past season Ovechkin battled against full-grown professional hockey players, while Crosby danced around inexperienced boys in Major Junior Hockey.

There is no doubt that Sidney Crosby is an outstanding talent. Unfortunately, like other young stars before him, Crosby is in danger of not living up to the expectations the media has placed on him. Crosby has been lifted up as a new Canadian hero, while the quality of Ovechkin’s character has been repeatedly questioned.

It will be a battle of first overall picks, one glorified as a hero, the other condemned as a villain. The upcoming season will reveal who is more prepared to play in the NHL. However, while most anticipate a Calder year for the next Canadian super hero, I must confess that I’m rooting for his arch-nemesis.

--Dan Robson

counterpoint

Of the NHL’s most recent first overall draft picks, Sidney Crosby will have the greater impact on the game. There is no doubt that Alexander Ovechkin has a bright career ahead of him, but he simply can’t touch the kid from Cole Harbour in terms of raw potential.

The two players traveled very different roads to get here, which makes comparisons difficult. In his last two seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Crosby racked up over 300 points in just 121 games—

mind-bogglingly high numbers. He is the only player ever to be named Canadian Hockey League player of the year twice.

Ovechkin has been playing in the Russian Super League—it is a league of men much older and more developed than those Crosby has been facing. His stats are, therefore, not nearly as high.

What sets Crosby apart is what he has done when the two have met on the same stage at the World Junior Hockey Championships. Crosby demonstrated what a complete player he is.

Not only does he have silky smooth hands and great speed, but also strength and stability. He fights in the corners and uses his body to gain an advantage against his defenders. He can go wide on a defender and force his way to the net. These things just aren’t seen in other star players his age.

The last time the two met in a game, Crosby landed one of several large hits on Ovechkin by Canadian players. Ovechkin was disconcerted by the attention he was receiving and the beating he was taking. He eventually left the game with a shoulder injury and watched from the bench in street clothes.

Injuries can happen to anyone, but this instance seemed symbolic of a greater divide between them. Crosby thrives despite the attention and punishment he takes, and it is not yet clear that Ovechkin does.

In the end, it’s not about these two players alone. Those playing around them will have a huge effect on their careers. This is another area where Crosby has the edge.

Crosby and Ovechkin join teams which have floundered in the NHL’s bargain basement in recent years—the Penguins and Capitals respectively. But Crosby is joining a team that has shown a commitment to building a winner, at least offensively, acquiring Ziggy Palffy, John LeClair, and offensive-minded defender Sergei Gonchar. Oh, and they’ve got this guy Mario Lemieux too, who has been pretty good—and young Crosby will be living with him.

Everything is in place for the most highly anticipated prospect since—well, Mario himself—to step onto hockey’s greatest stage and outshine his Russian rival.

—James Bradshaw

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