Messier ended the WHA season with the Cincinnati Stingers, scoring one goal and ten assists for 11 points in 47 games as a 17-year-old. While this was not earth-shattering totals, there was value in the performances of the Alberta native. After the season, the WHA and NHL merged. This was partly due to the Stingers folding at the end of the year, leaving just four operational franchises.
All four franchises are still in the NHL today, albeit three have been relocated. The Hartford Whalers are now the Carolina Hurricanes. The Quebec Nordiques are now the Colorado Avalanche, the original Winnipeg Jets are now the Arizona Coyotes and those plucky Edmonton Oilers are the only ones not to move. What this meant for Messier was that he would have to go through the draft.
Messier was taken #48 overall by the Edmonton Oilers in the 1979 NHL draft, and that is where we started to see the league’s new powerhouse team warm up. After 33 points in 75 games as a rookie, Messier cruised past the point-per-game mark as a junior with 50 goals and 38 assists for 88 points by year three. He won the Conn Smythe in 1984 as playoff MVP as the Oilers won the cup.
He’d win the Hart Trophy as league MVP in 1990 and the Lester B Pearson, or what is called the Ted Lindsay award today, as most valuable player as voted by the NHL Players Association. Messier would follow this up with one more season in Edmonton before the Oilers’ management started to admit that the sun was getting low on their dynasty. Gretzky was traded in 1988, Jari Kurri a little later, Grant Fuhr had gone too, and it seemed the writing was on the wall for Messier.