Once you consider the good goal-scorers in N.H.L. historical past, you suppose first of Wayne Gretzky. Names like Gordie Howe and Jaromir Jagr may come to thoughts, too.
Alex Ovechkin? A real famous person, a positive Corridor of Famer, however in fact not on the stage of the Nice One.
Or is he?
Ovechkin has been steadily climbing the N.H.L.’s profession goal-scoring listing and now ranks sixth with 730. He trails solely Gretzky, the chief with 894; Howe; Jagr; Brett Hull and Marcel Dionne. Sure, Gretzky’s mark, lengthy regarded as unassailable, is definitely creeping into Ovechkin’s sights.
Can Ovechkin put himself on the prime of the chart earlier than his profession ends?
How for much longer will he play?
At 36, Ovechkin is within the twilight of his profession. However, evaluating him to the gamers close to him on the listing, it could appear he might properly have a number of years nonetheless in him.
Gretzky and Dionne retired at 38, and Hull at 39 (not counting a five-game cameo at 41 in 2005-6). That may give Ovechkin no less than a couple of extra years. And that doesn’t even embrace the outliers: Jagr performed within the N.H.L. into his age 45 season and Howe performed to age 52.
Ovechkin additionally simply signed a five-year take care of the Capitals, the one N.H.L. crew he has performed for. There’s no assure he performs all these years, but it surely definitely reveals that he plans to attempt.
Accidents haven’t had a lot of an impact on Ovechkin’s profession, and he may moderately be anticipated to maintain enjoying near full seasons. Till final season, he performed nearly each regular-season recreation for his crew. He performed 45 of the Capitals’ 56 video games final season, lacking a while with a leg harm and 4 video games as a result of he violated Covid protocols. Alternatively, the speed of harm does definitely improve in a single’s late 30s.
What number of objectives can he produce?
Ovechkin has all the time scored objectives, main the league 9 instances in his 16-year profession, together with as not too long ago as 2019-20. Sometimes, he scored at a fee of between 0.7 and 0.8 objectives a recreation. In final 12 months’s considerably shortened season, that determine slipped to 0.5, nonetheless a wholesome fee.
Will that quantity bounce again over the following few seasons, or deteriorate additional?
Whereas he continued to document assists at a prodigious fee, Gretzky’s personal objective fee began slipping in his early 30s, as did Hull’s. To this point Ovechkin has defied that development. Gretzky ultimate time main the league in scoring got here at 26 and Hull’s at 27. Ovechkin was the league chief at 32, 33 and 34.
What does he say?
Ovechkin is conscious of the document. “Possibly it occurs, perhaps not,” he told ESPN this summer. “One step at a time.” In late 2020, earlier than signing the five-year contract, he told Russian Television International that he needed to play for 2 to 5 extra seasons with the Capitals.
What’s one of the best estimate of his future?
From right here, there should be some guesswork. Regardless of his five-year contract, let’s be cautious and put Ovechkin all the way down to play solely 4 extra seasons, and to not put in a protracted profession like Jagr or Howe.
Though he is perhaps anticipated to extend his 0.5 objectives per recreation fee of final season, let’s be conservative and say he maintains it for 2 seasons, then posts 0.4 and 0.3 charges for his ultimate two seasons. By way of accidents, even an ironman like Ovechkin would presumably miss a while in his late 30s and early 40s. Let’s say he performs a mean of 70 video games of the 82-game season. Provided that he has barely ever missed a recreation in his profession, this appears affordable, to say the least.
OK, now do the mathematics.
Utilizing these figures, Ovechkin will rating 35, 35, 28 and 21 objectives over the following 4 seasons. From a participant who scored 49, 51 and 48 over his final three full seasons in an 82-game format, these numbers look eminently doable.
These conservative estimates would give him 119 extra objectives in his profession, bringing him to 849. That may make him second on the profession listing.
If his profession performs out precisely as we’ve speculated, he can be 45 objectives in need of Gretzky. But when he got here that shut, may he not be tempted to increase his profession just a bit with the document in sight, particularly with one other 12 months left on his contract? And what if he performed 80 video games a season as an alternative of 70, or if he returned his scoring fee again to 0.6 or so? It’s not arduous to create a sensible state of affairs wherein the document turns into his.
So might he be as nice as Gretzky?
Even when Ovechkin lands the document, nobody will say that he’s as nice because the Nice One. If nothing else, Gretzky tallied 1,963 assists, a seemingly unbreakable document as he’s greater than 700 assists away from second place. Ovechkin, whose job has all the time been primarily to attain, stands tied for 97th on the help listing with 590.
Gretzky received 9 Hart Trophies because the league’s most beneficial participant to Ovechkin’s three and was a part of 4 Stanley Cup-winning groups to Ovechkin’s one. Gretzky additionally had 46 objectives within the World Hockey Affiliation initially of his profession that don’t depend towards his N.H.L. whole.
Whether or not he makes the highest of the goals-scoring chart or not, Ovechkin’s longevity and uncanny nostril for the objective continues to push him farther up into the rarefied air of the hockey pantheon.