Sidney Crosby is currently playing the best hockey he's ever played in his short but decorated career. So well in fact, that he's getting praise from one of the best to ever play the game.
Wayne Gretzky joined NHL on TSN Thursday night and The Great One did not hold back when it came to talking about the Penguins superstar captain.
"He scores big goals when you need to score big goals for your team," he told TSN's Gord Miller. "He's a winner, he's won a Stanley Cup and a gold medal. He's a special player."
While acknowledging his natural abilities, The Great One attributes Crosby's success to his incredible drive and the great example he has sitting in the Penguins owner's box.
"We all know how talented he is and how good he is but to me it's his work ethic," Gretzky said. "He's the hardest working guy in the league and that's why he's the best player in the game. He's got the right guy Mario there in Pittsburgh, he's got a tremendous leader right in front of him."
As Crosby's place as the best in the game today becomes less of a question and more of a statement of fact, his rank amongst the all time greats starts to move into focus.
As far as Gretzky is concerned, Crosby's spot on that list will be earned over time but has no doubt all the skills are present to one day place him with the best the game has ever seen.
"It takes time for Crosby to be there with Gordie Howe and (Mark) Messier and Bobby Orr but believe me he's going to be there." Gretzky said. "He's earned his way, he gets better every game and I think he's going to be better next year than he is this year. Right now he's playing the best hockey I've seen him play."
Gretzky has earned many great achievements over his lifetime, including multiple Stanley Cups and trophies. Next month, he is going to reach another very significant milestone - turning 50. The people around him might have big ideas for celebrating this special birthday, but Gretzky is having none of those plans.
"I keep getting calls from people saying what are you going to do?" said Gretzky. "I'm not going to do anything, I'm going to have a normal birthday with my wife and my five kids and take it easy. To a lot of other people 50 is a big deal but to me it's another birthday."
Gretzky has been spotted in various rinks throughout the season including Anaheim, Los Angeles and Toronto. A return to the game, however, is not something that is front and centre in his mind.
"I'm really enjoying what I'm doing," he said. "I'm a fan, I love the game right now I think the game is as good as it's ever been and the players are really good."