Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin placed his name among some of the greats in NHL history (again) on Tuesday when he scored the 767th goal of his career. Ovechkin scored the historic goal at the 15:02 mark of the second period against the New York Islanders.
With that goal, Ovechkin passed Jaromir Jagr for third place on the NHL's all-time goals list. The biggest question now is: where will the Caps superstar be on that all-time goals list when he decides to retire?
During the 2021-22 season thus far, Ovechkin has racked up 37 goals goals, which is good for fifth in the league. Since the season began, Ovechkin has passed Marcel Dionne, Brett Hull and now Jagr on the all-time goals list. The Capitals winger passed Dionne for fifth place on the all-time list in a two-goal performance in the team's season opener, and then passed Hull in November.
Now with Jagr in his rear-view mirror, Ovechkin now will focus his attention towards catching Wayne Gretzky's all-time goals record of 894 tallies.
If you're doing the math at home, Ovechkin currently sits 127 goals behind Gretzky. Right now, Gretzky has played in 241 more games than Ovechkin. Gretzky averaged 0.61 goals-per-game over the course of his career, while Ovechkin currently owns an average of 0.61 goals-per-game.
Here's a look at Ovechkin's numbers from the last five seasons, to explain how prolific his scoring clip his has been as he gets older:
- 2017-18 season: 49 goals and 0.60 goals-per-game in 82 games
- 2018-19 season: 51 goals and 0.63 goals-per-game in 81 games
- 2019-20 season: 48 goals and 0.71 goals-per-game in 68 games
- 2021 season: 24 goals and 0.53 goals-per-game in 45 games
- 2021-22 season: 37 goals goals and 0.62 goals-per-game in 59 games
Right now, Ovechkin is on pace to finish the 2021-22 season with 51 goals and that would be his highest output since the 2018-19 campaign. If we say that Ovechkin ends up with 51 goals this season, he'll be adding 14 more to his grand total, which will result in him having 781 when it's all said and done this year.
Ovechkin would then be 113 goals behind Gretzky for the all-time record. In each of the past three full regular seasons, the Capitals star has accumulated at least 48 goals in each of those seasons. If we assume that Ovechkin keeps scoring in that vicinity, breaking Gretzky's record is definitely a strong possibility.
If we take that 0.60 goals-per-game clip and average that out, Ovechkin could break Gretzky's record during the 2023-24 or 2024-25 season. That's assuming that he averages an estimated 52 goals-per-game in that timeframe. Obviously, that may not happen because Ovechkin is up into his late 30s.
On the other hand, it almost seems like Ovechkin gets better with age, so it's not out of the realm of possibilities.
Even if Ovechkin scores just 40 goals in each of the next four seasons (including the 2021-22 campaign), that'll put him at 120 goals during that timeframe.
It's worth noting that Ovechkin is having an MVP-caliber season this year and the majority of that came without playmaker Nicklas Backstrom, who was dealing with a hip injury, beside him. With 23 games remaining in the regular season, It's definitely not out of the realm of possibilities for Ovechkin to score at least 50 goals. He'd need to go on a little bit of a hot streak, but it's certainly an attainable mark.
Health is the biggest obstacle in Ovechkin's quest to break Gretzky's record. If he keeps playing at an elite level, the level he basically has played at since his first NHL game in 2005, there's no doubt that the Capitals winger can score the most goals in the history of the sport.