Pretenders to the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy Throne – A Look At the Opposition To Ovechkin’s Goal Scoring Dominance Over the Years



For much of the decade, hockey pundits have speculated when Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin would begin to decline in terms of his goal scoring, as he aged and faced the ever-inevitable onset of Father Time, despite the 2004 first overall pick generally being among the league leaders in goals. In his 15-year, NHL career, he has won the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy eight different times, including the last two seasons (2017-18 and 2018-19), and six out of the last seven seasons, when in many of them, he was not the goal-scoring leader at the midway point of the season.  In this piece, NoVa Caps examines Ovechkin’s productivity over the last decade, including how many goals he had on December 31, which is typically near the halfway mark of the season, and which NHL players were ahead of him in goals at that juncture.

2018-19 Season

On December 31, Ovechkin was leading the league in goals with 29 goals.  At that time of the season, Jeff Skinner and John Tavares each had 26 goals, while a month earlier on November 30, Winnipeg Jets star Patrik Laine led the league, with Skinner in second with 20. Ovechkin and Boston Bruins superstar David Pasternak were tied for third with 18 goals.

At the end of the season, Ovechkin led the league in goals with 51, winning the Rocket Richard Trophy, with Edmonton Oilers’ forward Leon Draisaitl finishing second with 50 goals.

2017-18 Season

On December 31, Tampa Bay Lightning star Nikita Kucherov led the NHL in goals with 25, while Ovechkin and New York Islanders captain Anders Lee were tied for second with 24 goals. A month before on November 30, Ovechkin led in goals with 18 goals, while Kucherov and Tavares each had 16 markers.

At the end of the season, Ovechkin finished with the league lead in goals with 49, winning the Rocket Richard Trophy, with Laine finishing as the runner-up with 44 goals.

2016-17 Season

On December 31, 2016, Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby led the NHL in goals with 26, followed by Los Angeles Kings’ forward Jeff Carter with 20 goals, Pastrnak and Laine with 19 goals, Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews with 18 goals, and Ovechkin, Wayne Simmonds and Cam Atkinson with 17 goals each.

At the end of the season, Crosby had a league-leading 44 goals, with Kucherov and Matthews finishing second with 40 goals each. Ovechkin tied for 13th in goals with Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin, Washington teammate T.J. Oshie, and Anaheim’s Rickard Rakell with 33 goals. Following the dip in goals from the previous season, the question began to arise whether Ovechkin was starting to slip in production.

2015-16 Season

On December 31, 2015, the league leaders in goals scored were headline by Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn’s 24, Chicago Blackhawks star Patrick Kane and Benn’s Dallas teammate Tyler Seguin with 23, St. Louis Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko with 22, and Ovechkin rounding out the Top 5 with 21.

Despite the start to the first half of the season, Ovechkin won the goal-scoring title with 50 tallies on the season, followed by Kane with 46 goals, Benn with 41 goals, and Tarasenko with 40 goals.

2014-15 Season

On December 31, 2014, Seguin led the league with 25 goals, followed by Rick Nash with 23, Tarasenko with 22, Steven Stamkos with 20, Joe Pavelski with 19, and Kane and Phil Kessel with 18. At the time, Ovechkin tied for eighth in goals with Kucherov, James van Riemsdyk, and Nick Foligno with 17 goals.

At the conclusion of the 2014-15 season, Ovechkin finished first in the league with 53 goals, followed by Stamkos’ 43, and Nash’s 42.

2013-14 Season

On December 31, 2013, Ovechkin was the league leader with 30 goals, with St. Louis Blues’ forward Alexander Steen in second with 24 goals. However, just a month prior, the two were closer in the scoring department, as Ovechkin’s 21 tallies led Steen by just one.

At the conclusion of the 2013-14 season, one in which the Caps struggled as a team, Ovechkin won the scoring title with 51 goals, followed by Corey Perry (then of the Anaheim Ducks) with 43, and Joe Pavelski (then of the San Jose Sharks) with 41.

2012-13 Season

The 2012-13 season was a partial lockout in which no NHL games were played from October through December and action not resuming until January.  Ovechkin led the league with 32 goals in the shortened season.

2011-12 Season

On December 31, 2011, Ovechkin’s 16 goals tied for 11th in goals scored with six other players. Stamkos was the league leader with 26 goals, while Marian Gaborik followed in second with 22 goals, and Jonathan Toews, James Neal, and Phil Kessel were tied for third with 21 goals. There were an additional two more players tied with 19, three more with 18, and seven more with 17.

At the end of the season, Stamkos won the Rocket Richard Trophy with 60 goals, followed by Evgeni Malkin with 50, Gaborik with 41 goals, and Neal with 40. Ovechkin finished fifth in goals with 38.

2010-11 Season

On December 31,2010, Ovechkin had only 14 goals and was in a multi-way tie for 30th in goals scored. The league leaders at the time were Sidney Crosby with 32 goals and Stamkos with 31 goals, with both being far above all other players. Ovechkin was not even the leader in goals on the Capitals’ roster, a distinction that belonged to Alexander Semin with 18, despite missing several games due to an injury earlier in the season.

At end of year, Corey Perry won the goal scoring title with 50 goal, followed by Stamkos with 45 goals, Jarome Iginla with 43 goals, and Ryan Kesler and Daniel Sedin both finishing with 41 goals.

2009-10 Season

On December 31, 2009, Ovechkin had 26 goals and was tied with Marian Gaborik for the league lead, with San Jose Sharks star Patrick Marleau just behind them with 25 goals.

At the end of the season, Stamkos and Crosby tied for the league lead in goals with 51, while Ovechkin ended with 50 goals.


During this decade alone, Ovechkin won six Rocket Richard Trophies, including three after his 30th birthday. In two of those seasons, he led at the halfway point of the season.  In three of those seasons, he was not in the goal scoring lead but reasonably close to the league leader in goals. The remaining season was the lockout-shortened season that did not start until the New Year. Additionally, there was one season in which he was tied for the lead at the halfway mark, but at the end of the season fell short by one goal.

For the current 2019-20 season, Ovechkin is fourth in goal scoring with 23 goals, five goals behind the current leader, David Pastrnak, while being one goal behind Auston Matthews and Jack Eichel, who both have 24 goals. Given his track record, it is not impossible that Ovechkin may catch up to Pastrnak in goals and win another Rocket Richard Trophy by season’s end.

Related Reading
NoVa Caps: Aging Like a Fine Wine — Ovechkin’s 2018-19 Start — Rocket Richard Winners

About Diane Doyle

Been a Caps fan since November 1975 when attending a game with my then boyfriend and now husband.
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