For the past 15 years, Alex Ovechkin has dazzled NHL fans with his wicked one-timer. He shoots the puck harder than anyone in the league. He has racked up 706 goals, which puts him in eighth place on the NHL all-time list.
One thing Washington Capitals fans have been thinking about lately is, will Ovechkin break Wayne Gretzky’s all-time goals record? It’s a very difficult record to break. To reach 800 goals, a player must average at least 45 goals-per-season for 20 years.
Related: The NHL’s 500-Goal Club
Gretzky stands alone atop the NHL leaderboard in career goals scored with 894. At one time, The Great One’s record seemed unreachable. Yet, since the 2005-06 NHL season, no player has scored more goals than “the Great 8”.
On Feb. 22, 2020, Ovechkin scored the 700th goal of his storied NHL career in signature style. The 34-year-old superstar unleashed a powerful one-time slap shot that beat the goaltender before he could react, to become a member of the 700-goal club.
An Amazing Pace
Ovechkin went from 600 to 700 goals in 155 games, faster than any player in NHL history; Gretzky was the second-fastest (in 169 games). However, Gretzky was just 29 years old when he became a member of the 700-club, five years younger than Ovechkin when he achieved this great milestone.
In over 15 NHL seasons, Ovechkin has scored less than 40 goals three times. In the 2010-11 season he scored 33 goals, the strike-shortened 2012-13 season he scored 32 goals, and in the 2016-17 season, he scored 33 goals. Since then, he’s put up 49 goals in 2017-18, 51 goals in 2018-19, and 48 goals in 68 games this season. If the season hadn’t been paused, he likely would have scored 50 goals for the ninth time in his career; one of three players– including Gretzky– to achieve that feat.
A Durable Superstar
In the NHL’s history, there has not been a more durable player than Ovechkin. The most games he has missed in a single season was 10 in 2009-10. Since he turned 30 in 2015, he has only missed four games. After the age of 30, he has been much healthier than Gretzky, who missed 55 games between the ages of 30 and 33.
Ovechkin has scored 181 goals over the last four seasons. In each of the last two seasons, he has led the league in goals, making him the oldest player since Phil Esposito to lead the NHL in scoring after turning 32 years old. After Gretzky turned 30, he only scored 40 goals once and 30 just three times for the remainder of his career.
After turning 30 years old, Gretzky scored 217 goals in 592 games, while Ovechkin has scored 231 goals in 392 games. Can Ovechkin keep up this goal-scoring pace into his mid-to-late 30s?
Finesse vs. Power
Comparing who is bigger or stronger, there is no debate. Gretzky was 6-feet, 185 lbs. when he retired. Ovechkin is 6-foot-3, 236 lbs. and is built like an NFL Linebacker. When Gretzky went to the high-traffic areas, he got hit, and those hits took a toll on his career.
Ovechkin may not be as graceful a skater or as good a playmaker as Gretzky, but he is the most powerful blend of size, speed, and goal-scoring ability that the NHL has ever seen. His speed allows him to catch up to his opponents and his size and strength allow him to punish them with hard, open-ice hits. Ovechkin’s physical strength has allowed him to stay healthier longer than Gretzky.
Opposing teams have tried to limit the number of times Ovechkin has scored against them from his office on the power play, with little success. Every year, he leads the league in power-play minutes-per-game. The Caps’ playmakers know that the best way to score is to find Ovechkin ready to tee off. “The Great 8” has scored the third-most power goals (265) in NHL history.
Chasing Gretzky’s Record
The next all-time greats that Ovechkin needs to pass are Mike Gartner (708), Phil Esposito (717), Marcel Dionne (731), Brett Hull (741), Jaromir Jagr (766), and Gordie Howe (801).
At 706 career goals, Ovechkin is still far from reaching Gretzky’s record. If he can average 32 goals-per-season in the next six seasons, he will pass Gretzky’s record.
Ovechkin can do it, but he has to run the table: He can’t afford to suffer a bad injury, the Caps will have to keep being a strong team, and there can be no NHL labor disputes that suspend games. It’s a big “if” for all of this to happen, but that is what makes sports fun to watch. You never know what can happen.
Ovechkin could average between 40-45 goals over the next three seasons. That would bring his total to around 830 by the time he turns 38 years old. At that point, he would need 65 goals to break Gretzky’s record. Even at 38, Ovechkin could easily score 33 goals in each of the next two seasons.
He will break Gretzky’s NHL goals record on a one-timer from the “Ovi Spot” at the end of the 2024-25 NHL season. He will finish his NHL career with 901 career goals.
In an NHL.com article, Gretzky recently offered his thoughts on Ovechkin chasing his record: “I think it’s great for hockey, I think it’s wonderful for Washington and the Capitals, I think it’s outstanding for Alex and his family, and I’m rooting for him as hard as anybody.”