Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHL via Getty Images
Washington Capitals captain and franchise face Alex Ovechkin turned 36-years old on Friday. The team drafted him with the first overall pick in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, but he did not make his NHL debut until Opening Day of the 2005-06 season, due to the fact the NHL players were locked out for the entire 2004-05 season.
Prior to his debut, NHL scouts considered him the best prospect since Mario Lemieux and predicted that he would be a “generational talent” on the order of Wayne Gretzky.
After Ovechkin reported to the Capitals, he made an amazing debut, scoring two goals in his very first game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, and quickly becoming a franchise-changing talent.
From the beginning of his career, he piled up high numbers of goals, topping 50 (52) goals during his rookie season and produced high numbers of goals on a regular basis. During his third NHL season (2007-08), he set a franchise-high in goals for a season with 65, one in which he helped lead the team to the playoffs after a terrible first half of the season. As the team became a contender, fans started flocking to home games at MCI Center (later known as Verizon Center and now Capital One Arena), selling out nearly every game. In the years immediately prior to 2007-08, the franchise seemed moribund as they would finish in the division cellar and near the bottom of the league, overall. Ovechkin finally led the team to their first Stanley Cup championship during the 2018 postseason and won the Conn Smythe Trophy for Most Valuable Player in the playoffs.
Below is a list of his milestone goals.
- Goal #1 – October 5, 2005 — Opponent: Columbus Blue Jackets at Home
- Goal #100 – October 12, 2007 — Opponent: New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden
- Goal #61 (2007-08 Season; broke Team Record) – March 25, 2008 — Opponent: Carolina Hurricanes at RBC Center
- Goal #200 – February 5, 2009 — Opponent: Los Angeles Kings at Home
- Goal #300 – April 5, 2011 — Opponent: Toronto Maple Leafs on the Road
- Goal #400 — December 20, 2013 — Opponent: Carolina Hurricanes on the Road
- Goal #473 Broke Franchise Career Record – April 2, 2015 — Opponent: Montreal Canadiens on the Road
- Goal #484 to Broke Record for Goals by a Russian-born player – November 19, 2015 — Opponent: Dallas Stars
- Goal #500 – January 10, 2016 — Opponent: Ottawa Senators at Home
- Goal #600 – March 12, 2018 — Opponent: Winnipeg Jets at Home
- Goal #700 – February 22, 2020 — Opponent: New Jersey Devils on the Road
In the process of accumulating goals, he has passed up many big names in career goals. The only players who have scored more NHL goals than Ovechkin are: Wayne Gretzky (894), Gordie Howe (801), Jaromir Jagr (766), Brett Hull (741), and Marcel Dionne (731). He has already passed names such as Phil Esposito, Mike Gartner, Mark Messier, Mario Lemieux, Teemu Selanne, Luc Robitaille, among others. He will likely pass Marcel Dionne very early in the 2021-22 season and Brett Hull before the first half of the season is over. Another good season in 2021-22 would put him past Jaromir Jagr.
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
His new, five-year contract could give him the chance to pass Wayne Gretzky for the all-time record. If he can maintain the approximate productivity of Boston Bruins great Johnny Bucyk from age 36-40, he would succeed in that endeavor. Bucyk scored 168 goals from Age 36-40 while Ovechkin would need 164 goals to pass Gretzky. Bucyk played in the NHL until he was 42 and topped 20 goals at age 41.
Ovechkin has achieved many other milestones for the franchise, besides goals.
- NHL Point #1,000 – January 11, 2017 — Opponent: Pittsburgh Penguins at Home (Ovechkin scored his 42nd goal of that season)
- NHL Assist #500 — January 25, 2018 – Opponent: Florida Panthers on the road (He earned that assist on a power play goal scored by Nicklas Backstrom.)
- Game #984 — February 26, 2018 — Opponent: Columbus Blue Jackets on the Road
- Game #1,000 – April 2, 2018 — Opponent: Pittsburgh Penguins on the Road (Scored goal early in game)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
He became the Capitals’ Team Captain on January 5, 2010, not long after the departure of the team’s prior Captain, Chris Clark, via trade and has remained the team’s Captain ever since. Throughout his time with the franchise, the fans witnessed his growing maturity, including getting married and having two little boys, Sergei and Ilya.
Ovechkin has also contributed more to the franchise besides his on-ice play. He has devoted countless hours to charity, through numerous organizations in both Washington, D.C. and Russia, and participated in many media tours as well.
Happy birthday, Ovi. And may you have many more goals and championships ahead of you.
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By Diane Doyle