Pittsburgh Penguins\' Evgeni Malkin, (71) from Russia, is congratulated by his teammates. (CPimages/AP/Kevork Djansezian)
"It's quite amazing to see what he's doing the first few games of his career in the NHL," Lemieux said of the Pittsburgh Penguins rookie in an interview with The Canadian Press on Thursday. "We knew he was a great talent but not to that extent.
"From what I've seen so far he's going to be a great player for many years to come," added Lemieux.
The outgoing Penguins owner knows a thing or two about lasting first impressions, scoring his first career goal on his first career shot on his first career shift on Oct. 11, 1984 - 20 months before Malkin was born.
Too bad, says Lemieux. He would have loved a chance to play on a line, in his prime, with Malkin and 19-year-old superstar Sidney Crosby.
"I wish it was 15 years earlier," said the 41-year-old Lemieux. "It's quite amazing to see him play with Sid and see what they're doing now at their age."
Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien put Malkin, a natural centre, on Crosby's line with winger Colby Armstrong for an Oct. 24 game against New Jersey. It was instant chemistry.
And that despite the fact Crosby and Malkin can't even speak the same language.
"These guys, they see the ice so well," said Lemieux. "That's why they're both world-class players. They don't need to speak on the ice. They see the ice, they see exactly what they want to do, they anticipate the play really well and they read off each other - which is a big key in being successful and being a great player. They both do that very well."
It was in that Oct. 24 game that Malkin truly underscored his arrival, taking a long pass from Crosby and dipsy-doodling through the Devils' defence tandem of Brad Lukowich and Colin White before beating superstar goalie Martin Brodeur with a jaw-dropping, reach-around backhand move.
On hand that night in Pittsburgh was none other than Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.
"I'm a Stars and Pens season-ticket holder and have been going to hockey games since I was a kid," Cuban wrote Thursday in his blog. "This was the first time I literally just stood, my jaw dropping in amazement and just shook my head. The most amazing goal I had ever seen."
It was the same kind of reach-around move the right-handed Lemieux perfected during his hey day.
"The move he made on the defenceman coming across and having the presence to go on his backhand and pulling Marty out of the net, that was quite a move," said Lemieux. "But I think the more impressive move was the way he beat that defenceman cutting across and waiting until the last second. It was quite amazing."
Even Lukowich had to admit he was impressed, although he says part of the confusion on the play was a bad line change on his part.
"But he made really what should have been a nothing play into a spectacular play," Lukowich said from East Rutherford, N.J. "He's going to be an exciting player to watch."
The 20-year-old Malkin was named the NHL's rookie of the month for October despite appearing in only five games, his season delayed by a dislocated shoulder sustained in his first pre-season game at Moncton on Sept. 20.
"It is amazing that he can come into this league, miss most of training camp, and then step in in his first six games and score seven goals," Kings defenceman Rob Blake said from Los Angeles.
Blake saw it first-hand Wednesday night as Malkin scored a pair, including the overtime winner, in a 4-3 Penguins win over the Kings.
In doing so, Malkin became the first NHL player in 89 years with goals in each of his first six games.
"His first goal, the puck was on his stick for less than a second," said Blake. "It was a great feed by Crosby and Malkin put the puck where he had to. He didn't hit our goalie in the chest, he put it in the corner where it was supposed to go. Those things you can't teach."
Just like a fan, Blake caught himself wondering what Crosby and Malkin would do next.
"Sitting there on the bench last night, just watching the plays they were attempting to make, it was pretty nice.
"That pairing is very tough to defend," added Blake. "They both have some need to score. They want the puck on their stick every time they're on the ice and they want to score. I don't know if you can teach that. It's a hunger they have. They had chance after chance."
New York Islanders centre Alexei Yashin played with Malkin last year at the Olympics and also faced him Oct. 19 - when Malkin had a goal and an assist in his second career NHL game.
"I've known him for a few years now. He's a complete player," said Yashin. "He's very skilled, he's a great skater, he can pass, he can score, he can shoot. And what's even better for him is that he's playing with Sidney Crosby. Those two guys, with their skill level and talent, can do a lot of damage."
Added Isles head coach Ted Nolan: "We played him his second game and you could tell that kid is going to be the real deal. Hockey fans are going to be treated watching him and Crosby do some magical things over the next few years."
The Devils have already faced the duo twice this season.
"You can just tell with those two, they look at each other, they're excited to play with each other," said Lukowich. "They're looking to set each other up and they also don't want to let each other down. They're going to be a tough duo to play against for quite some time."
Veteran defenceman Adam Foote of the Columbus Blue Jackets faced Malkin on Oct. 21 and understood right away how hard it is to defend him.
"With guys like that, talented players who are big and strong on the puck, you have to take their percentages away," said Foote. "If you overplay them, like when you overplayed Lemieux, you get in trouble. I think he's the real deal."
So far fellow Russian star Alexander Ovechkin is looking good on the prediction he made while accepting the Calder Trophy last June in Vancouver.
"I think next year Evgeni will win rookie of the year," Ovechkin said at the time, adding that he was somewhat jealous of the 1-2 punch the Penguins would have.
"They're both unbelievable players and Pittsburgh is very lucky they have both Crosby and Malkin."
Cuban echoed that though in his blog.
"You may or may not be an NHL fan, but if you are a fan of greatness in the making, watch the Pens," Cuban wrote. "Crosby and Malkin? They will not only remind Pens and NHL fans of Mario and Jaromir Jagr, but could have them wondering whether watching them play together is what watching Mario and Gretzky playing together would have been like."