Wayne Gretzky compares Panthers center Aleksander Barkov to NY Islanders legend

Sports Contributor Archive 2020
Sports Contributor Archive 2020 / Jayne Kamin-Oncea/GettyImages

New York Islanders legend Bryan Trottier is the franchise's all-time leader in games, assists and points, but it's was an often under-appreciated part of his game that was highlighted during Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Florida Panthers and Edmonton Oilers.

During the first intermission, "The Great One," Wayne Gretzky joined the SportsNet panel and compared the matchup between Panthers center Aleksander Barkov and superstar Connor McDavid to what he battled against when the Oilers faced the Isles in the 1983 Stanley Cup Final.

"No. 16 [Barkov] is the best defensive player I've seen since Bryan Trottier," Gretzky said on SportsNet's coverage of the Stanley Cup Final. "I got Bryan Trottier for four games, and what did I get? No goals. What did we get? No cup."

"He's good offensively too, like Trottier was, Connor has his work cut out for him."

Trottier was considered the best two-way center of his generation, scoring 500 goals on Long Island in addition to his reputation for being able to shut down the opposing premiere offensive players. He was one of the players Gretzky looked up to as he entered the league and had previously spoken about how he felt uncomfortable about the comparisons between the two early in his career.

"Coming from him especially means a lot," Barkov said about Gretzky's comments. "Everyone knows what he's done to the game of hockey. When you hear people like him say stuff like that, it obviously means a lot coming from players or former players. I appreciate that."

Barkov has won the Frank J. SelkeTrophy, awarded to the league's best defensive forward, twice. He won it for the first time in 2021 and then again after this past season. Trottier, who won the Calder, Art Ross and Hart Trophy, never won the Selke, which started being awarded in 1978.

Barkov and Trophy will never have the Selke Trophy in common, but Barkov hopes that he will soon be able to call himself a Stanley Cup champion, something Trottier accomplished six times as a player.