I love watching NHL Network game footage of the islanders in the late 70's early 80's, because I love to watch Potvin skate around like a menacing beast. Being too young to have seen him first join the league, I was pretty interested to learn a lot from his legends of hockey bio, mainly about his physicality from the moment he stepped in the league.
Then I watched the Flames/Kings game last night when something clicked, and it wasn't the sound of avery hitting the boards.
Naturally I'm not saying phaneuf is or ever will be at potvin's level at any point during his career, but what kind of comparison can be made in the way they both entered the league? Fairly young guys (potvin at 18) come in and immediately begin to make physical and scoresheet contributions, while being very solid defensively.
Again, I dream of phaneuf becoming a Potvin-like player, but anyone who has had a chance to watch them both come into the league, is it a fair comparison?
I was fortunate to watch Denis Potvin through the bulk of his career...and now, as you, am enjoying watching Dion Phaneuf.
My initial reaction: your comparison is very solid.
Obviously, we are talking about potential, or similar styles of play at this point. It would be absurdly premature to rate the rookie on the same talent/accomplishment level as one of the greats of the game.
But I see the complete package in DP, and a pronounced bite to his game, which made Potvin such a unique player. He's on the path to a very special career, IMO.
What is telling about both of them is that young dmen RARELY step on to NHL ice and have an immediate impact as significant as both Potvin and Phaneuf. It just doesn't happen. In watching the game for four decades, I can count on one (maybe two) hands rookie dmen who looked like seasoned veterans from the very start...and all went on to HOF careers. Potvin, to be sure. Leetch and Stevens come to mind. Phaneuf is having a similar, unique rookie season.
As an aside, when describing Denis Potvin, I've always said that he combined the offensive brilliance of Brian Leetch (in his prime) with the defense and snarl of Scott Stevens. I'm bias, to be sure, but aside from the greatest hockey player ever (#4, Bobby Orr) Denis Potvin is the best defenseman in my time of watching the game.