Why Alex Ovechkin Is (Statistically) Already The Greatest Goal Scorer Of All Time

Alex Ovechkin is the already the greatest goal scorer of all time. That’s according to a bit of logical number-crunching and extrapolation conducted by the fine folks at The Ice Analytics Podcast. The analysis is based on the difference in eras that Ovechkin and Gretzky played. More specifically, the difference in the average goalie save percentages for each of the eras.

A Tale Of Two Eras

Wayne Gretzky scored 803 goals in his first 15 NHL seasons. This in an era in which the netminders average save percentage was 88.01%.

Alex Ovechkin has scored 692 goals in his first 14.5 NHL seasons. His goals have come in era in which the netminders average save percentage was 91.06%.

But what if Ovechkin played during the same era as Gretzky?

If Ovechkin Played in The Gretzky Era

Ovechkin has scored an additional six goals per year for every 1% drop in goalie save percentage. Therefore, if Ovechkin played from 1979-1994, he would have scored an estimated 9-21 more goals per year. This would bring his total number of goals to date from 692 to ~936. He would have actually broken Gretzky’s current goal record at the end of last season – in 14 total years.

Additionally, If they had played during the same era – Ovechkin would have passed him in year 10.

Conclusion

The debate regarding the difference in eras is complex. Equipment is better today, for both the skater and the goaltender. The level of competition and parity in the league is at an all-time high, making it a bit more challenging each and every game. However, goal scoring is at an all time high right now. This debate will continue, but Ovechkin could put it to bed for good in just a few more seasons.

By Jon Sorensen

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His passion for the Caps has grown over the decades, which has included time as a season ticket holder, social media and community organizer, and most recently led to the founding of NoVa Caps in 2014. Jon earned a Bachelor's of Science in Civil Engineering at Old Dominion University, and is a Systems Engineer during intermissions, which has been instrumental in supporting his Capitals habit.
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10 Responses to Why Alex Ovechkin Is (Statistically) Already The Greatest Goal Scorer Of All Time

  1. Anonymous says:

    This is a perfectly logical extrapolation, one that isn’t discussed much by the media.

    • Anonymous says:

      Using save percentage is an illogical analysis as there are so many other factors that would need to be isolated and factored out such as shots on goal per game, power plays per game, goals per game, (all which would factor in to quality of goal scoring opportunities). The only valid analysis is one which compares how much more dominant one player is over players of the same era and then compare that dominance to the dominance of other players. While I believe Gordie Howe is the goat goal scorer due to his longevity and consistency Brett Hull dominates goal scoring over players of his era more than any other player does. If you do adjusted goal stats to factor in goals per game and games played per season Gordie is easily the goat scorer.

  2. Brashnir says:

    Your assertion that “However, goal scoring is at an all time high right now,” is incorrect. In the current season, The average goals per game is 3.06. In 1981-82 (The actual all-time high) The league saw 4.01 goals per game.

    Perhaps you’re looking at total goals scored across the league – which includes a huge number of additional games due to expansion, making it a completely irrelevant statistic for comparing individual players.

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