The record set by “The Great One”, Wayne Gretzky, was once thought to be insurmountable. Yet, the number is in the sight of one man.
Alexander “The Great Eight” Ovechkin.
For 16 seasons, all played for the Washington Capitals, Alex Ovechkin has been the greatest goal scorer in the NHL. He has scored 730 goals placing him at 6th All-Time, two goals short of passing Marcel Dionne for sole possession of 5th All-Time.
He has won a record nine Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophies, the trophy that is awarded every year to the NHL’s leading goal scorer.
And while that already fills up a normal man’s trophy cabinet, he also has three Hart Memorial trophies (League MVP voted by media), three Ted Lindsay awards (League MVP voted by players), the Calder Memorial Trophy (Rookie of the year), and a Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe trophy from one of the most magical playoff runs you will ever see in 2018.
Ovechkin is the only player in history to have won at least one of each of the mentioned awards. Players like Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux would also qualify had the Maurice Richard Trophy been awarded when they played.
Being in the company of those two greats is beyond impressive.
As a Washington Capitals fan, it has been a pleasure year in and year out to watch Ovechkin pour his heart and soul into Capitals hockey, and him earning
Ovechkin’s quest towards the goal record has not come without its setbacks.
For most, their goal scoring falls off due to injury, fatigue, or just the process of aging that hinders them from putting out the same numbers they did in the early parts of their career.
That has not been the case of Ovechkin.
Over his 16 year career, Ovi has only missed 42 games, and only 24 of them were due to injury.
He also missed 7 games for on-ice disciplinary reasons and suspensions, 4 games due to COVID protocol this season, 3 games suspended for skipping the All-Star game, 2 games for family reasons, 1 game for oversleeping where he was punished by the team, and 1 game for rest.
He has been as healthy as he can be for the entirety of his career, and has always emphasized how important offseason training is towards his success.
Aging has also proven not to be a setback. In the last 2 seasons, at ages 33-35 he is only third in goals scored behind Leon Draisatl and Auston Matthews in the two shortened seasons due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Those two shortened seasons however have caused a setback towards his ability to break Gretzky’s record.
Had both seasons been played in full, and Ovechkin maintained the same goal scoring pace he had in each season, he would have scored a total of 26 more goals.
These are also not the only shortened seasons he has had to deal with in his career.
Ovechkin has dealt with two NHL lockouts during his time in the NHL, In both 2003-2004, the year he was drafted, and in 2012-2013, the NHL went through a lockout due to player and team disagreements.
In 2012-2013, the season was cut short to 48 games, and Ovechkin led the league with 32 goals.
In that season, had there been no lockout, and Ovechkin scored at the same pace, he would’ve ended the year with around 54 goals.
In 2003-2004, the entire season was cancelled, and Ovechkin was forced to play another year in Russia. His goals per season average since entering the league is 45.64 goals.
So, over 3 shortened seasons (Covid and 2012 Lockout), Ovechkin has been robbed of 48 additional goals. After you add on the potential for about 45 more goals in the fully cancelled season, you are looking at 93 potential missed goals for Alex Ovechkin.
If you add the 93 goals to his already astounding 730, he would have 823 goals placing him at second place ahead of Mr. Hockey, Gordie Howe, and only 72 goals shy of passing Wayne Gretzky.
Can He Catch The Great One?
Heading into the 2021-2022 season, Alex Ovechkin is an unrestricted free agent after completing the final year of his 13-year $124 million dollar deal that he signed in January of 2008. The deal remains the largest total money amount in NHL history for one contract.
Although he has yet to resign, I can 100% guarantee that he will be in a Washington Capitals jersey come October.
Back in May, when questioned by reporters about his contract he stated, “I’m confident: we still have time. Obviously, I want to finish my career here. I’m pretty sure we will do something soon.”
It is likely the Capitals are waiting for this summer’s Expansion draft to pass so that they won’t need to protect him.
Even if he were to not sign with Washington, I don’t see him suiting up for any other team in the NHL. He’d much more likely go back to Russia and the KHL.
Another thing to consider is the length of longtime teammate Nicklas Backstrom’s contract. Last summer he re-signed with Washington for 5 years. It is a possibility that Ovechkin signs for 4 years to match lengths.
Taking all of that into consideration, I’m going to look at Ovechkin’s chances, assuming he plays for 4 more seasons.
Sitting at 730 goals, he is 165 goals shy of passing Gretzky. That means he would need to average around 41.5 goals per season over 4 years, four goals less per year than his career average.
But as he ages, odds are that his production will go down from his career average of 45.5 goals per season.
As mentioned earlier, Ovechkin is third in goals over the last two seasons. Over those seasons, he has averaged .637 goals per game, which would equate to 52 goals per a normal 82 game season.
If he can maintain a 50 goal per season line for two years, he will only need 65 goals over the final two seasons, equating to about 33 goals per year.
If he maintains that pace for one year, he will need 115 goals over three seasons, just about 39 goals per season.
All of these situations seem possible for the Great Eight. He has shown no signs of slowing down, and when it seems like he is, he comes back and scores a hat trick. He has been sensational.
And in a day and age where the goalies wear the most protection and gear they ever have, and the defense is much more advanced, his feat is even more remarkable.
It seems to be in the cards for Ovechkin to become the first NHL player to reach the 900 goal plateau.
I will repeat what Gretzky himself said earlier this year.
“I think that he has got a legitimate chance.”