Gretzky picks 87 over 97: 'Sid is still the best player in hockey'

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Joe Sargent / National Hockey League / Getty

While Connor McDavid is well on his way to earning the Art Ross trophy - currently leading the NHL with 36 points - and possibly more this season, he hasn't earned the moniker of NHL's best player. Not to Wayne Gretzky, at least.

Gretzky believes the title still belongs to Sidney Crosby, who's tied for the league lead in goals, and is fourth league-wide in points with only 20 games played.

"Sid is still the best player in hockey. That's a mantle you earn over time," Gretzky told Craig Custance of ESPN. "It's one of those things where you have to earn that title."

Of course, Crosby is 10 years McDavid's senior, and while the Oilers phenom seems poised to take over, Sid's accolades seal it for The Great One.

"Is Connor a great player? Absolutely. Does Connor have an opportunity to be the next Crosby? Absolutely," Gretzky said. "Right now, Sidney deserves to be known as the best player in the game. He's been the best player consistently in his career. He's won Stanley Cups and he's won gold medals. Until somebody takes that mantle away from him, he's still going to hold the crown."

As Crosby reaches the peak of his prime, and McDavid enters his, a passing of the torch may feel inevitable, but coming from the player no superstar - past or present - can usurp on hockey's totem pole, Gretzky's view has to be taken as valid.