Nathan MacKinnon had just settled into his chair on the concourse at Lifeguard Arena in Henderson, Nevada, when someone asked if he, as per tradition, spent the offseason training alongside Sidney Crosby.

"Yeah, he worked out with me a little bit," MacKinnon said, fresh off celebrating his first Stanley Cup and a few days before signing a massive extension with the Colorado Avalanche.

MacKinnon adores Crosby, his childhood hero and a fellow native of Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia. So he quickly made sure the reporters interviewing him last week at the NHL/NHLPA Player Media Tour didn't misinterpret his cheeky response as a jab at the 35-year-old Crosby.

"I'm joking, I'm joking," MacKinnon said with a smile. "Nah, nah, nothing's changed. He's still the best."

Benign as it was, MacKinnon's joke was a reminder of the changing of the guard that's taken place in the NHL over the past few years. Crosby, hailed as the best player in the world for more than a decade, has, in the eyes of the vast majority of observers, ceded that title to Connor McDavid.

McDavid, a transcendent talent who at 25 already has four Art Ross and two Hart trophies, is this generation's gold standard. McDavid may not be the unanimous best player in the world - talk to enough people, and you'll hear dissenting opinions - but there's no doubt he's the consensus pick.

The real debate heading into the 2022-23 season revolves around the slot behind McDavid. Is Crosby the world No. 2? Or is it MacKinnon? Auston Matthews? Cale Makar? Leon Draisaitl? Nikita Kucherov? Somebody else?