What differentiates great players from everyone else is how many don’t seem to age. In basketball, many see that quality in Lebron James playing at an elite level every night. In baseball, people look at the dominance of Max Scherzer and how he still contends to be one of the best pitchers in the game. But in hockey over the last few seasons, it has been Alex Ovechkin’s league, and we as fans are all witnesses.
Since Ovechkin first arrived on the hockey scene, he has been an elite scorer. In his first five seasons, Ovi scored 269 goals, averaging just more than 53 goals a year. But over the past few years, he has cemented his legacy.
The Washington Capitals star has been on a tear recently. Ovechkin capped off a January with 13 goals in ten games. He then followed that up by scoring a third-period hat trick at home against the Los Angeles Kings.
With his career goals scored sitting at 698, Ovechkin still has a realistic chance of reaching Wayne Gretzky’s NHL record of 894 goals. In Ovechkin’s career, he has always been regarded as one of the best players in the game, but can he continue that over the next few years and catch Gretzky?
As it stands now, Ovechkin is 196 goals away from tying the mark. Over the last six years, he has averaged almost 48 goals per season. With a Stanley Cup win in 2018 and multiple playoff appearances making his off-season shorter, Ovechkin is still one of the game’s most consistent players every year. This season, Ovechkin is projected to finish the year with 59 goals, putting his total at 715. Assuming Ovechkin is able to also score 50 goals next year, as he has averaged that over the past few years, then he will have a career total of 765 — only 129 short of Gretzky’s mark. At the end of next season, he will be 35-years-old and possibly only have four or five years of hockey left.
If Ovechkin wants to pass Gretzky’s mark, he has to stay perfectly healthy. Due to his age, the number of goals will more than likely go down. However, if there’s anyone capable of not suffering a sharp decline, it’s Ovi, who averaged a similar number of goals per game in his last four seasons compared to his first four seasons. If he can get to at least 765 by the end of next season, he should have a really good shot at 894 — only if he can stay healthy and play until he is 40.
Assuming he does play until 40-years-old, he would need to score about 26 goals per year. This is highly likely, especially if he can have at least one season where he scores at least 35 goals in his career. Ovechkin has a shot at passing Gretzky if he can stay healthy and play consistently efficient hockey. For now, though, all Capitals fans can and should do is enjoy seeing one of the greatest hockey players of all time continue to play at a high level for the near future and possibly bring another Stanley Cup back to the District.