Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin are often compared, and the debate is heated which of them is the greatest player in the game right now. Sure, very compelling arguments can be made in favor of both these spectacular hockey players, but evidence is mounting that Sid the Kid and Alexander the GR8 might be competing for second spot. There is a growing contingent of hockey fans that believe that Evgeni Malkin might be better than both of these guys.

During his brief NHL career Evgeni Malkin has lived under the enormous shadow of NHL poster boy, Sidney Crosby. Crosby has become the ambassador for the sport of hockey much like Wayne Gretzky was in his day, and his incredible talent and his aptitude and composure when handling media pressure make him a natural in this role. However, when Crosby went down with an injury last season, Malkin was suddenly thrust into the spotlight as Pittsburgh's go-to guy. Many though Malkin would wilt under the enormous pressure, but instead the hulking Russian thrived, going on a tear the last half of the season that helped vault Pittsburgh into second place in the Eastern Conference.

This season Malkin has picked up right where he left off, and just past the quarter mark of the season Malkin leads both teammate Crosby and countryman Alex Ovechkin by a healthy margin in the Art Ross trophy race.

Evgeni Malkin's sheer size, skill with the puck, and dominance in the offensive zone puts me in mind of another Penguins superstar you may have heard of: Mario Lemieux.

Mario played the game with the same effortless grace that Malkin exhibits, and often times seemed to be a man playing amongst boys. When I first saw Malkin at the World Junior Championships I thought the same thing, and despite playing against larger opponents at the NHL level he still gives that impression.

It is interesting the way that history has repeated itself in Pittsburgh. Back in the early 90s Pittsburgh had two of the games most dominant players in Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr. Now, a decade and a half later they've got Crosby and Malkin. Initially everyone thought that Malkin would be the "Jagr" of the duo, a skilled, dutiful sidekick laboring in the shadow of one of the game's all time greats. Not so fast folks, Crosby's got his work cut out for him if he wants to continue to be the "Mario" in this deadly duo.

Whoever comes out on top fans of the Pittsburgh Penguins are the winners. If management can somehow manage to keep this pair together, Pens fans can look forward to many years as Stanley Cup contenders.