Gr8 Endurance: Alex Ovechkin’s Longevity Compared to His Peers – 2022-23 Preseason Edition

Photo: Getty Images (via TSN)

The 2022-23 season will be Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin’s 18th season in the National Hockey League (NHL). And even now, as he turns 37, a relatively advanced age (in hockey player terms), it is still not unreasonable to expect him to score a high number of goals and possibly again be in contention for the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy.

The former first overall pick scored 50 goals in 2021-22 which was his 17th consecutive year of topping 20 goals, his ninth season of scoring at least 50 goals, his 12th season of scoring at least 40 goals, and his 16th of scoring at least 30 goals.

Ovechkin’s productivity and longevity are especially outstanding when compared to his peers, whether those born in his birth year (1985) or in the birth years adjacent (1984 and 1986).

A breakdown is as follows:

Comparison to Other Players Born in 1985

Just 17 players born in 1985 played in the NHL during 2021-22, out of 141 players born that year who have played in the NHL. Two of them, Ryan Getzlaf and Carter Hutton, announced their retirements, which reduces the number of active players to 15.

Three more, Loui Eriksson, Brad Richardson, and Jay Beagle, are still unrestricted free agents, as of this writing. Beagle is contemplating retirement. The rumor is that Eriksson will continue his career overseas, destination unknown. Richardson’s performance has greatly declined and will likely not be able to find an NHL job.

The remaining eleven players, besides Ovechkin, who are expected to be active in 2022-23 are:

  • Ryan Suter (Dallas Stars),
  • Brent Burns (Carolina Hurricanes),
  • Paul Stastny (Carolina Hurricanes),
  • Corey Perry (Tampa Bay Lightning),
  • Patrice Bergeron (Boston Bruins),
  • Jeff Carter (Pittsburgh Penguins),
  • Andrew Ladd (Arizona Coyotes),
  • Alex Goligoski (Minnesota Wild),
  • Jaroslav Halak (Vancouver Canucks),
  • Brian Elliott (Philadelphia Flyers), and
  • Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (Tampa Bay Lightning).

In breaking down the players active in 2021-22 born in 1985 by draft class, ten were drafted in 2003, three were drafted in 2004 (Ovechkin, Ladd, and Goligoski), one was drafted in 2005 (Stastny), and three were not drafted (Beagle, Bellemare, and Hutton)

Ovechkin, who has played in 1274 NHL career games, ranks a very close second place to Ryan Sutter, who played in 1280. He, overwhelmingly, has the most career goals with 780.

Last season, he had the most goals for a player born in 1985 with 50. After that were Patrice Bergeron (25), Paul Stastny (21), Jeff Carter (19), and Corey Perry (19). He also has a commanding lead in total points, with 1419. Ryan Getzlaf, who recently retired, ranks second in career points. Ovechkin is second in assists with 630, only to Ryan Getzlaf who is a center and centers tend to produce more assists than wingers by their role.

Comparison to Players From Adjacent Birth Years

Ovechkin’s consistency and endurance can also be compared against players in the birth years adjacent to his; i.e. 1984 and 1986.

1984

Just six players born in 1984 played in the NHL in 2021-22, out of 143 players born that year. Among those six, Dustin Brown announced his retirement, Nate Thompson signed a Player Tryout Contract (PTO) with the Los Angeles Kings, and Brian Boyle remains unsigned. Eric Staal, also born in 1984, has not officially retired as a player but played no NHL games in 2021-22 and signed a PTO with the Florida Panthers.

Photo: NHL

The remaining players born in 1984 who are under contract are Joe Pavelski (Dallas Stars), Zach Parise (New York Islanders), and Marc-Andre Fleury (Minnesota Wild). If Staal, Boyle, and Thompson do not play in the NHL in 2022-23, that means just three players born in 1984 remain in the NHL.

The most productive goal scorers during the 2021-22 season among those born in 1984 were Pavelski (27), Zach Parise (15), and Brian Boyle (11). The overwhelming leader in assists was Pavelski (54). The leaders in points were Pavelski (70) and Parise (35). Pavelski is currently the only skater born in 1984 who performed anywhere closer to his peak.

In comparing Ovechkin’s career statistics with players born in 1984, he has more goals, assists, and points than any of them.

1986

Of the 138 NHL players born in 1986, just 15 of them played in the NHL during 2021-22. These players were Keith Yandle (Philadelphia Flyers), Blake Wheeler (Winnipeg Jets), Evgeni Malkin (Pittsburgh Penguins), Alexander Edler (Los Angeles Kings), Blake Comeau (Dallas Stars), Anton Stralman (Florida Panthers), T.J. Oshie (Washington Capitals), Andrej Sekera (Dallas Stars), Tyler Bozak (St. Louis Blues), Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles Kings), Alexander Radulov (Dallas Stars), Derek Ryan (Edmonton Oilers), Thomas Greiss (Detroit Red Wings), and Anton Khudobin (Dallas Stars).

Among those 15, Radulov signed a contract with the KHL and Sekera announced his retirement. Yandle, Comeau, Stralman, Bozak, and Corey Schneider are still unrestricted free agents. As the performance of all five of those free agents has greatly declined from their peak, their NHL careers are likely over.  The number of active players born in 1986 who will play in the NHL in 2022-23 could be as few as eight but would be thirteen, at most.

In breaking down the 1986-born players who played in 2021-22 by draft class, ten were drafted in 2004, four were drafted in 2005 (Yandle, Stralman, Oshie, and Quick), and two were undrafted (Bozak and Ryan).

Photo: NHL

Despite being bothered by a knee injury, Malkin is still considered an important player with the Penguins. He scored 20 goals and recorded 22 assists during a season where he missed nearly half the games. Blake Wheeler and T.J. Oshie are still productive goal scorers, as Wheeler scored 17 goals and Oshie scored 11 goals during a year he missed nearly half the season.

Ovechkin has more goals and points than any of the players born in 1986. The only player from that birth year with more assists is Evgeni Malkin who has 602 assists and is a center, like Getzlaf.

Conclusion

When one looks at his productivity and durability over the 17 full seasons of his career, it is easy to see why Ovechkin’s longevity compared to that of many of the players who came into the league alongside him is so impressive. In a league as difficult to endure as the NHL, The Great Eight continues to plow ahead.

(Data was obtained from the Quant Hockey, Hockey Reference, Stat Head, and NHL sites.)

By Diane Doyle

Related Reading
A Review Of Past Goal-Scoring “Graybeards”, And What It Could Mean For Alex Ovechkin And His March To Pass Wayne Gretzky
Appreciating The Consistency And Longevity of Alex Ovechkin Compared to His Peers
Gr8 Endurance: Appreciating Alex Ovechkin’s Longevity Compared to His Peers – 2021-22 Preseason Edition
Aging Like A Fine, Goal-Scoring Wine: The Most Productive NHL Players Past Age 35 And What That Could Mean For Alex Ovechkin
36 Going on “More Legendary”: A Look at Washington Capitals Icon Alex Ovechkin’s Accomplishments Up to Age 36
Alex Ovechkin And Evgeni Malkin: Comrades and Arch-Rivals

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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5 Responses to Gr8 Endurance: Alex Ovechkin’s Longevity Compared to His Peers – 2022-23 Preseason Edition

  1. Anonymous says:

    Happy birthday 8!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Has someone calculated goals Ovi would have had without lockouts, COVID etc.?

    • Diane Doyle says:

      My off-the-cuff calculation is that he’s lost about a year’s worth of games so likely 40-50 goals behind where he should be. (I was thinking about 30 games missed from 2012-13 lockout, 20 games lost from Covid in 2019-20, and 30 from 2020-21.) He’d be at 820-830 by now, otherwise.

  3. Diane Doyle says:

    The number of active players born in 1986 has now officially been reduced by one. Keith Yandle has announced his retirement.

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