Reports of Alexander Ovechkin possibly leaving the NHL in the next few years to end his career in Russia are over. While he may still do that someday, hockey fans can breathe a sigh of relief that we will see the best of his remaining years played out at the highest level. Ovechkin has inked a 5-year deal to stay with the only NHL team he has ever known, the Washington Capitals. The news no doubt elicits smiles across the hockey world and a singular thought across our collective fandom. 895. The chase is on.
Ovi now has at least five years to do what some once thought was impossible, break one of Wayne Gretzky’s most vaunted records. Ovi will enter this coming NHL season 164 goals behind The Great One for the all-time goal scoring title. The will he, won’t he debate continues.
Ovechkin has already established himself as the greatest goal scorer the sport has ever known. Nine goal scoring titles in the 30+ team era, eight 50 goal seasons, 3 Hart Trophies, 1 Cup, the list goes on. Ovechkin does what would be the highlight of most player’s careers on an almost annual basis constantly winning scoring titles and hitting hockey’s gold standard of 50 goals. Had it not been for multiple lockouts and a global pandemic, cruising past Gretzky’s mark of 894 goals would be a cake walk.
As frustrating as that must be, we as fans now get the excitement of watching Ovechkin push to put the ultimate cherry on top of his legacy. In order to pass Gretzky’s mark Ovi needs to average exactly 33 goals per season over the life of his contract. There are a lot of goals left to score but he still has a career average of over 50 goals per season and even after getting off to a slow start this past season he was still on pace for over 40 in a normal year. To put it more into perspective, in the most uncharacteristically unproductive year of his career Ovechkin put up 32 goals, meaning even playing at his “worst” basically puts him on track to take the crown from Gretzky.
Barring injuries to what has been a remarkably healthy career, we are within five years of seeing Ovechkin climb one of hockey’s Everests and become the NHL’s all-time goal scoring leader.