One of the coolest images in hockey is a player sitting in his stall, holding a taped up puck with a number scribbled on it to represent a milestone, marking another significant step in an NHL career.
This season some of the best players in the league are closing in on some special career milestones.
Here are some of the ones we’ll be watching for once the season gets underway.
Alex Ovechkin has been one of the most consistent scorers in the NHL since he broke into the league in 2005 and this season he has a chance to reach 600 career goals. He’ll need 42 to do it and considering he’s reached that in eight of his 12 seasons, it’s not too much of a stretch to think he can break the barrier by the end of the season.
However, Ovechkin is coming off a season where only scored 33, his lowest in four years. After all of their off-season losses, the Capitals more than ever need Ovechkin to carry the offence. Getting to 600 goals would not only be a great individual achievement but it would also show the rest of the NHL that Ovechkin still has more to give in his career. Not getting the 42 needed for the milestone would continue a downward trend for the once-feared sniper that could mean his best days are behind him.
When Ovechkin does reach 600 goals, whether it’s this season or next, he will enter an exclusive club. Only 19 other players have reached that mark in NHL history.
Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau have had their careers intertwined since they went first and second overall in the 1997 draft and this year they both have a chance to play in their 1,500th games.
But for the first time since 2005-06, they will be doing it on different teams as Marleau left the Sharks for the Maple Leafs as a free agent. Marleau’s move marked the end of an era for the pair, which included a trip to the Stanley Cup final and an Olympic gold medal with Team Canada.
Their bond was so tight, in fact, that in a recent interview with The Athletic, both players confirmed they almost left the Sharks as a package deal this summer.
“We went back and forth but ultimately, we both knew we had to do what was right for ourselves,” Marleau said. “Just talking to him, we knew we had to do that. I felt this was the right move for me.”
While they won’t be teammates anymore, Thornton and Marleau will hit a major milestone this season and should both be in the Hockey Hall of Fame after their careers end.
Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins — 12 goals away from 200
At age 40, Zdeno Chara may not be as dominant as he was in his prime but he’s still an important part of the Boston Bruins. With his big shot, Chara has been blasting goals for years and he now finds himself closing in on 200.
Only 20 defencemen have reached the 200-goal mark and Chara leads all active blue liners with 188. He is also the only active defenceman in the top 50 all-time points by a defenceman, sitting 36th with 604 points.
He’s entering the final year of his contract so this season might be seen by some as a farewell tour for the future Hall-of-Famer. But a few weeks ago he said that he plans on playing beyond this season.
Whatever he decides, hitting 200 goals will be an impressive milestone.
Roberto Luongo has been a steady presence in net his entire career and as he enters his 19th season he has the chance to move up a couple all-time lists. While he’ll be splitting time with James Reimer, if he appears in 34 games he’ll become only the third goalie ever to reach 1,000 games. And if he wins just two games this year, he’ll pass Curtis Joseph for fourth all-time with 455.
Both of these achievements are a testament to Luongo’s longevity, but at 38 he’s aware the Panthers will begin leaning more on Reimer.
“Reimer is a starter in the NHL, no doubt about it,” Luongo said last week. “He looks amazing, better than even he did last year. We are a partnership.”
You know the boys have confidence in your goaltending skills when 3 guys line up to block a shot….. pic.twitter.com/Q5QfxrDnsm
— Strombone (@strombone1) September 18, 2017
Last season the Panthers celebrated the many achievements of Jaromir Jagr. This season they’ll get to do it all again with Luongo.
Other potential goaltender milestones: Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights (400 wins, 700 games played), Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens (300 wins), Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings (500 games played).