Next up, Wayne Gretzky.
Alex Ovechkin on Friday surpassed Gordie Howe for second place on the N.H.L.’s profession goal-scoring list. With 802 goals, he now trails only the Great One.
Ovechkin moved into second place after scoring two goals within the Washington Capitals’ 4-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets.
Ovechkin, a 37-year-old left wing, is a lifer with the Capitals, who drafted him with the primary overall pick in 2004. “Should you go first, you might be one of the best,” he said on the time. “I at all times need to be one of the best. Yes, I can play within the N.H.L. I can rating goals.”
That turned out to be an understatement. While hopes were high for Ovechkin, “scoring as many N.H.L. goals as Gordie Howe and perhaps as many as Wayne Gretzky” was not certainly one of the new takes.
In 18 seasons, Ovechkin has won three Hart Trophies, awarded to the league’s most useful player, and within the 2017-18 season he lifted the Capitals’ only Stanley Cup. He has played for Russia at three Winter Olympics, but has never won a medal.
And throughout all of it, he has scored a great deal of goals. He has led the league nine times, as recently because the 2019-20 season, which was shortened by the coronavirus pandemic, when he tied with David Pastrnak of the Boston Bruins with 48 goals on the age of 34.
He has long since left the present crop of players behind. Next on the lively goal-scoring list is the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Sidney Crosby, who began his profession alongside Ovechkin (Crosby was the No. 1 pick within the 2005 draft, however the season-canceling N.H.L. lockout the previous season delayed Ovechkin’s start).
Crosby, a 35-year-old center who’s more of a playmaker than Ovechkin, has 536 goals.
Ovechkin is in the corporate of the immortals. Gretzky finished with 894 N.H.L. goals, and Ovechkin now looks down the list on goal scorers as great as Jaromir Jagr (766), Brett Hull (741), Marcel Dionne (731) and Phil Esposito (717).
And Howe, the person Ovechkin just met near the highest, scored his 801 goals in an insanely long profession that amounted to 1,767 N.H.L. games — with Detroit and Hartford — greater than 400 greater than Ovechkin. And he scored one other 174 during six seasons within the World Hockey Association.
A yr ago, Ovechkin’s catching Gretzky appeared like a great bet but not a sure one. In spite of everything, age is likely to be expected to slow Ovechkin’s scoring rate and injuries to his older body may cost him appearances.
But he has looked ageless in his last season and a half. In each last season and the present campaign he’s averaging just over 0.6 goals a game, right at his profession average. He played in 77 of the Capitals’ 82 regular-season games last season and hasn’t missed a game to date this season at the same time as the Capitals (19-13-4) have struggled.
Amazingly, Ovechkin is averaging greater than 20 minutes of ice time per game, among the many top 20 forwards within the league. Just one — Mats Zuccarello of the Minnesota Wild — is older than 30.
Let’s say Ovechkin roughly maintains the 0.6 rate this season and doesn’t get hurt: He could well pick up 30 more goals. If he slips to, say, 0.5 next season, that’s still 40 more goals. Then he can be inside 20 or so of Gretzky and able to break the record within the 2024-25 season.
Earlier this season, Gretzky acknowledged that it was a matter of when, not if, Ovechkin would surpass his record. On condition that in 2021 Ovechkin signed a five-year, $47.5 million contract that can take him through 2025-26, you would need to agree.
Don’t weep for Gretzky though. His assist record of 1,963 is greater than 700 ahead of second place (Ron Francis, now the Seattle general manager) and greater than 1,000 ahead of Crosby, who has 916 assists. Ovechkin, whose primary talent is scoring goals, has 649 assists, and there are a handful of lively players ahead of him.
Still, with the most recent milestone, Ovechkin continues to ascend into the upper reaches of hockey’s pantheon and it doesn’t appear like he’s planning to stop any time soon.