Capitals’ captain Alex Ovechkin has been on a scorching-hot scoring pace recently, recording 11 goals and notching an assist in his last five games. This was the first time in Ovechkin’s career that he’s accomplished this feat, and it comes at age 34. He’s avoided the dip in performance that has come with players entering their mid-30s, which has prompted many around the league to seriously consider the possibility that Ovechkin is capable of breaking Wayne Gretzky’s once perceived infallible goals record.
Alreadt this season, Ovechkin has passed some big names in hockey history on the all-time goals list. These names include Luc Robitaille, Teemu Selanne, Mario Lemieux, Steve Yzerman, and as of last night, Mark Messier. Ovechkin, at age 34, stands pat at 8th overall in career goals.
In this piece we’ll take a look at Ovechkin’s trajectory for the rest of the season, and the marks he’d have to hit each upcoming season to hit 895 goals, which would be the new career record for goals in NHL history.
Projecting the rest of the 2019-20 regular season
As previously mentioned, Ovechkin has notched 37 tallies in 51 games this season, good for a .725 goals per game mark. If we stretch this pace out over 81 games (Ovechkin was suspended for the game against Montreal immediately after the All Star Break for skipping the All Star Game), he’s on pace to score just under 59 goals this season.
For context, 58 goals would be the most Ovechkin has scored since his third year in the NHL, where he tallied 65 goals in his electric 2007-08 campaign. Let’s take a second for that to sink in. Ovechkin at 34, with some of the best goal scoring seasons to date in recent history, could have his second best scoring season. Unreal.
Obviously, with Ovechkin’s recent scorching-hot pace, we can likely expect more of a regression to the mean over the course of the remaining 30 games this season. This is exemplified by the fact that over the last five games, Ovechkin has had a 39.28% shooting percentage. For context, that’s about 27% higher than his career shooting percentage and about 24% higher than his shooting percentage this season. That’s not necessarily a sustainable course.
To be conservative, let’s assume that Ovechkin finishes the season with 50 goals. With 13 more goals this season, he’d move into a tie for 7th place with Mike Gartner at 708 career goals, with 267 fewer games played. That’d also put Ovechkin 187 goals away from Gretzky’s goals record.
Projecting out Ovechkin’s scoring until age 40
It seems appropriate to project-out Ovechkin’s scoring until age 40 for him to break the goals record. While we haven’t seen any indication of Ovechkin’s scoring slowing down any time soon, we can’t assume that his elite scoring rate will continue when he surpasses his age 35 season.
Obviously, if Ovechkin continues his goal scoring pace we’ve seen the past few seasons, there’s little doubt that Ovechkin would be able to break the record in about three and a half seasons.
We’ll take the conservative route here, and suggest it’ll take in the neighborhood of five more seasons to break the record, since aging is undefeated.
As long as Ovechkin continues scoring at a high rate over the next couple of seasons following the 2019-20 season, the goal scoring record is in sight. If Ovechkin can get to around 100 goals remaining to break the record by the end of the 2021-22 season, he only needs to average just above 25 goals per season from the 2022-23 season to the end of the 2025-26 season.
As long as Ovechkin’s shot stays as dominant on the power play, it’s conceivable that he could still keep up his power play scoring rate. He’s on pace for 19 power play goals this season. If he can keep up that pace over the next five or six seasons, it’s conceivable that he could hit the goal scoring thresholds he’ll need to break the goal scoring record.
Some more context
To show just how dominant a scorer Ovechkin has been since he’s entered the league, let’s compare his goal scoring totals with Sidney Crosby, who is the second highest goal scorer since 2005-06, when they both entered the NHL:
There’s a few things at play here, mainly focused around style of play, as well as the fact that Crosby has missed a fair bit of time due to injuries throughout his career. Ovechkin’s health, well, is more akin to a cyborg than a human. He’s been so durable through his career that he hasn’t missed significant time and kept up his scoring prowess after him and Crosby were pretty tight in goal scoring through their first two seasons in the NHL.
This really cements the fact that we’re truly witnessing a generational, one-of-a-kind talent in Ovechkin. While we all sometimes focus on the entire view of the season, we should take some time to really appreciate the history we’re seeing in the making with Ovechkin as the Caps’ franchise cornerstone and arguably the greatest goal scorer in the history of the NHL.
By Justin Trudel
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