Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin placed his name among some of the greats in NHL history (again) earlier in November when he scored the 742nd goal of his professional career. Ovechkin scored the historic goal at the 10:19 mark of the first period of a game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
With that goal, Ovi passed Brett Hull for fourth 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 12 goals and registered a point in all but three games. Since the season began, Ovechkin has passed Marcel Dionne and Hull 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.
Next up on the all-time goals list is Jaromir Jagr. Ovechkin would need to score 25 goals the rest of the season in order to pass Jagr's mark of 766. Considering that Ovechkin has scored at least 48 goals in three of the past four seasons, that mark is easily reachable -- barring any lengthy injuries. Last season, the league was limited to just 56 games due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Ovechkin registered just 24 goals. As you can now see, Ovi passing Jagr is likely a foregone conclusion.
Being able to catch Wayne Gretzky's all-time goals record of 894 tallies isn't as clear cut.
If you're doing the math at home, Ovechkin currently sits 152 goals behind Gretzky. Right now, Gretzky has played in 275 more games than Ovechkin. Gretzky averaged 0.60 goals-per-game over the course of his career, while Ovechkin currently owns a 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: 12 goals and 0.80 goals-per-game in 15 games
Through 15 games, Ovechkin is nearly averaging a goal per contest. It's unlikely that Ovechkin will keep up that pace over the course of the entire season, however..
So, let's just say that Ovechkin averages 0.60 goals-per-game over the course of the 2021-22 regular season. Over the final 67 regular season games, that would put him at an estimated 40 more goals, which gives him 52 for the campaign. In each of the past three full regular seasons, the Capitals star has accumulated at least 48 goals in each of those seasons -- so that estimation isn't too unbelievable.
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 148 goals since he already has 12 goals this season ... which would mean that he would only need five more in order to break Gretzky's record assuming he gets 40 on the nose in each of those seasons.
It's worth noting that Ovechkin is having an MVP-caliber season this year and that's without playmaker Nicklas Backstrom, who has yet to play this season due to a hip injury, beside him. It's definitely not out of the realm of possibilities for Ovechkin to score at least 50 goals, especially if Backstrom returns in the near future.
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.