Connor McDavid's 100-assist season elevates an already legendary NHL career

It's time to have a serious conversation about Connor McDavid and one of the best bar debates in the sport.

His most recent impressive feat of recording 100 assists in a single season also helps the argument that he has already earned a place on hockey's Mount Rushmore at the age of 27.

McDavid just posted the 14th 100-assist season in NHL history — and the first since Wayne Gretzky's 11th season in 1990-91 — thanks to an assist on Zach Hyman's second-period goal in a 9-2 win over the San Jose Sharks on Monday. He got there just before Nikita Kucherov. The Tampa Bay Lightning winger, who has played five more games than McDavid this season, recorded his 99th assist on Monday and has one game remaining to achieve the milestone.

McDavid joins Gretzky (11 times), Mario Lemieux and Bobby Orr as the only players on this club.

Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Bobby Orr are on almost everyone's Mount Rushmore list. A year after winning his first Rocket Richard Trophy with 64 goals — the most since the 2007-08 season when Alex Ovechkin scored 65 even Auston Matthews this season — McDavid's penchant for playmaking made him part of this exclusive crew and cemented his Mount Rushmore cause. building since entering the NHL.

We were robbed of experiencing McDavid's true greatness in his rookie season when it lasted Broken collarbone After the controversial hit by Brandon Manning.

McDavid had 48 points in 45 games that season, an 87-point average. For reference, 87 points would have put McDavid third in the 2015-16 scoring race, between Jimmy Benn and Sidney Crosby.

Winning the Calder Trophy wasn't enough, but he made up for it in terms of collecting trophies. McDavid has won the Art Ross Trophy five times in the seven full seasons since his rookie campaign and has finished second twice.

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McDavid has been right in the thick of the scoring race again this season. Despite a terrible start by his standards – he had 10 points in his first 11 games – McDavid worked his way back into the picture and took his first lead on March 30. Art Ross' sixth win, which would tie Lemieux and Gordie Howe for second McDavid, who is all-time behind Gretzky (10), will have to wait after McDavid was sidelined last week with a lower-body injury. But he already exists in the rarefied air – linked to the greats Phil Esposito and Jaromir Jagr.

It should be noted that McDavid's always played for at least 30 teams in the NHL. That's at least 600 active skaters fighting with and against them. With due respect to those greats before him who emerged from shallow pools, scoring championships are now very difficult to win. That McDavid is already in the inner circle for the number of career titles in this era is an unfathomable accomplishment.

He's also closing in on 1,000 career points, just 18 points away after one goal and one assist against the Sharks, and could become the third-fastest player to reach that goal. Gretzky and Lemieux, who enjoyed their prime NHL seasons when the offense was at its peak, reached that mark in 424 and 513 games, respectively. Next is Mike Bossy at 656 games.

McDavid has skated in 644 games, which means he has 11 games to beat Posey. Since McDavid has scored 1.82 points per game over the past two seasons — and has 122 points in his last 64 games since the Oilers' coaching change on Nov. 12 — he's been given a good opportunity to do so.

The term “generational gamer” is being handed out like candy on Halloween these days. McDavid is the standard that others fall short of. He has already won the Hart Trophy three times — tied with Ovechkin and one ahead of Crosby in terms of contemporaries — and is good for a tie for fourth all-time. The last two times he received the award, not a single vote was cast for him.

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McDavid is sure to be in another Hart race this season. His production is by no means subpar given the low goals and not being a clear scoring leader that shows his brilliance.

As for his overall legacy at this point, detractors are sure to point to the one major trophy missing from his mantle: the Stanley Cup.

McDavid is the first to admit that he shouldn't be considered one of the greatest players of all time without winning one. He has repeatedly said that the focus this season is not on individual trophies but on lifting the silverware in June.

Whether it's this spring or somewhere, it's inconceivable that McDavid won't win at least one Stanley Cup by the time his career is over. Certainly, there have been many outstanding players who have retired without having their names engraved on them. McDavid is a cut or two above them all.

Getting a trophy (or two or three) over the next decade or so will undoubtedly put him close to locking in Mount Rushmore. The Oilers are in a competitive window and should be the favorite to win it all this season.

It's said here that he doesn't even need that kind of team success to be considered the face of league history.

As with scoring titles, the Stanley Cup is harder to come by than ever before in NHL history. There are no six teams now. The World Hockey League hasn't dismantled many organizations today. There aren't as many franchises with tight budgets as there were before the advent of the salary cap.

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Parity in this era means that any of the 16 teams that make it to the playoffs has a chance to win it all. For example, the Western Conference this season is filled with strong teams that can all reach the final.

The Oilers could lose in the early round, which would be a huge disappointment for the team and its captain. But if that happens, it certainly won't be McDavid's fault. Look no further than his last two qualifying sessions for an indicator.

McDavid had 53 points in 28 games over five series and was the Oilers' best player — just ahead of Leon Draisaitl. He has shown up in crucial moments, especially at the end of the Los Angeles-Calgary matchup in 2022. He ranks fourth in playoff points per game in NHL history — just behind Draisaitl.

So, put the team's success aside for now. McDavid has proven time and time again that he is one of the best players the NHL has ever seen.

If Gretzky and Lemieux are the gold standards of the game — and with Orr there as well — the list of contenders for the fourth spot on Mount Rushmore is not short. Crosby, Ovechkin, Howe and Richard highlight that – and that's before even considering the defenders or goalkeepers.

McDavid's recent accomplishment has already made him the subject of immediate attention. Here we bet it will be the best choice when he hangs up.

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(Connor McDavid and Zach Hyman Photo: Paul Swanson/NHLI via Getty Images)

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