Simple. How much did Messier starting his career as a youngster in the WHA and then with Gretzky on the Oilers as an 18 year old in the NHL, affect his hall of fame career? Sure they never played on the same line, but they practiced together, and definitely knew each other well from 18 onwards. The experience as a 17 year old in the WHA, for Wayne, and even with Messier would have been an especially intense introduction to professional hockey as 17 year olds. No matter how many arguments there are about the merit of the league, any team from the WHA could definitely beat any NHL club today, the same way the Oilers can defeat the Penguins today, although I think some WHL clubs weren't all that bad Gretzky was an elite forward at 17 against some of the very same NHL idols he grew up studying, and some other extremely talented players that never gained NHL stardom. Obviously Messier had an entirely different experience in the WHA, and as a third/second line winger, then finding his place as a centermen, and gaining NHL stardom with his spectacular conn smythe performance for the Oilers first cup. Gretzky's start in the WHA is definitely a factor why he scored so many goals in his first NHL season. Although, I wouldn't be surprised if he hit 130+ coming straight in from Jr. hockey. I think the fact that he played at a star level in a professional league at 17 motivated and gave Wayne the confidence to literally change the face of hockey into the 80's. Messier didn't produce anything spectacular in his first three seasons, but I think the experience being immersed in pro hockey from 17 on would have been extremely formative. Starting to be on a team centered around Gretzky from 18 on, had to have affected Messier's game that cannot be even comprehended by words. Messier always being in Gretzky's shadow made him step up to a level he may never have lived up to had he been drafted by say the Jets, or the Colorado Rockies. mark definitely owes something to Gretzky, and vice versa... but I think they both especially owe something to the WHA for starting them off as 17 year olds in pro hockey.