By the Numbers: Ovechkin’s place in history as 1,000th game approaches

Alex Ovechkin scores his 45th goal of the season after he rifles it past Alexandar Georgiev. It's Ovechkin's 9th season with at least 45 goals tying him with Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy for the most in NHL history.

It’s been 13 years since Alex Ovechkin debuted for the Washington Capitals, just a fresh-faced 20-year-old rocking the club’s now-vintage black and bronze threads.

After kicking off his NHL career in style with a two-goal showing, the Moscow native has gone on to establish himself as the most dominant goal-scorer of his generation, and undeniably one of the best to ever do it at the NHL level.

On Sunday, Ovechkin will suit up for his 1,000th game in the big leagues, leading the Capitals onto the ice against the rival Pittsburgh Penguins.

With the Great Eight on the cusp of another milestone, in a career that’s seemingly been full of them, let’s take a look at a few notable numbers from his first 999 tilts:

1: His all-time ranking in Rocket Richard Trophy wins

Since the league introduced the Maurice ‘Rocket’ Richard Trophy in the late 90s to reward the NHL’s top goal-scorer, no player has had their name engraved on the trophy more than the Capitals captain. Ovechkin has claimed the trophy six times, leading the league in goals in 2007-08, 2008-09, 2012-13, 2013-14, 2014-15, and 2015-16.

Even taking into account the pre-Rocket Richard Trophy era, only one player has led the league in goals more times — Bobby Hull claimed the goal-scoring lead seven times during the 60s while Phil Esposito sits level with Ovechkin, having led the league six times in the 70s.

2: His ranking among all active players in points collected on the power play

The power play has been Ovechkin’s bread and butter throughout his career — he scored on the man-advantage in his very first game and hasn’t let up since. All in all, the Great Eight has racked up 434 points on the power play (roughly 39 per cent of his career points total), ranking him second among all active NHLers in that regard.

Only Joe Thornton sits above him, with 517 man-advantage points to his name. That said, the San Jose Sharks star has played quite a few more games in the big leagues than Ovechkin (1,493 total).

3: The number of times he’s claimed the Hart Trophy, most among active players

In three of the years that Ovechkin snagged the Rocket Richard Trophy as the game’s top sniper, he also earned the Hart Memorial Trophy as the league’s MVP as voted by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.

Those three dominant seasons from the Capitals phenom — in 2007-08, 2008-09, and 2012-13 — rank him first among all active players in MVP wins, with no other current player having earned the Hart Trophy more than twice. Only three players in history have ever won it more than three times: Wayne Gretzky (9), Gordie Howe (6), and Eddie Shore (4).

4: His ranking among the fastest players to 600 career goals

Just this March, the Russian phenom potted the 600th goal of his career, making him one of only 20 players to ever accomplish such a feat. Ovechkin did it in the fourth-fewest games in history, joining Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Brett Hull as the only ones to reach the 600-goal plateau in fewer than 1,000 games.

A bonus No. 4: Ovechkin is the first player to ever snag all four of the most coveted individual trophies in one year — the scoring title (Art Ross Trophy), goal-scoring title (Rocket Richard Trophy), and the two MVP awards (the Hart Trophy and the Ted Lindsay Award, formerly the Lester B. Pearson Award), completing the sweep in 2007-08.

5: The number of First All-Star Team nods Ovechkin earned to start off his career

Racking up 269 goals and 529 points through his first five NHL seasons, Ovechkin earned a spot on the league’s First All-Star Team (the six-man group chosen by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association indicating the top player at each position) in each of those early campaigns. He’s the only player in league history to start his career off with five straight First All-Star Team nods — a testament to the consistency with which he dominated the opposition on the scoresheet from his very first game in the NHL.

6: His all-time ranking in terms of goal-scoring pace

Among all NHL skaters with a decent number of games under their belt (i.e. those who logged at least a couple seasons in the big leagues), Ovechkin’s goals-per-game pace (.604) ranks as the sixth-best all-time. That pace has netted him 603 goals over the course of his career, the 19th-highest sum ever posted.

Even 100 more over the rest of his career (seemingly a given at this point) would vault Ovechkin into the all-time top 10 snipers the game has ever seen.

7: The number of 50-goal campaigns posted by the Great Eight

The 50-spot Ovechkin posted in 2015-16 took his grand total to seven 50-goal campaigns over the course of his career — only two other players have ever climbed that statistical mountain that many times: legends Mike Bossy and Gretzky, who each did it nine times.

Ovie’s best showing came 2007-08 when he amassed a career-best 65 tallies. Five of his 50-goal seasons netted him the Rocket Richard Trophy (he snagged one more trophy in a 45-goal season) while two saw him top the coveted goals mark but fall short of the awards stage.

8: His ranking among the best all-time game-winning goal scorers

More than just the number he wears on his back, Ovechkin’s eight also represents his place among the must clutch goal-scorers to ever take the ice. Through 999 regular season tilts, Ovechkin has scored an astounding 101 game-winning goals, tied for the eighth-most all-time, with only Jarome Iginla sitting level with him.

He’s only two away from seventh all-time (Patrick Marleau, 103) and a handful away from fourth (Teemu Selanne/Brett Hull, 110), so there’s a good chance the Russian dynamo ends up finishing higher on this list when all is said and done.

9: The number of times he’s finished a season scoring at a point-per-game pace

In the 12 seasons Ovechkin has played out prior to 2017-18, he’s finished the final game having scored above a point per game all but three times.

His scoring pace has finished as the league’s best three times (unsurprisingly his three best marks: 1.51 in 2009-10, 1.39 in 2008-09, and 1.37 in 2007-08). The only campaigns in which he didn’t top a point per game were 2011-12, when he finished with just 65 points, and recently in 2015-16 and 2016-17. The 32-year-old is currently rolling along at a clip of 1.06 this season.

10: His ranking among the best all-time power-play goal scorers

Back to that bread and butter. It’s there, out in no man’s land near the top of the offensive zone, that the seasoned sniper has collected more than a few highlight-reel tallies, cashing in on the man-advantage 227 times through his 999 regular season games. Only nine players have ever tallied more, and all but one (Lemieux) have hundreds of more games on their résumés.

The Great Eight sits only 47 away from No. 1 on that list. He’s posted at least 15 power-play goals nine times in his career — 10 if you count the 15 he has this season. If he does that just three more times before he hangs it up, he’ll be flirting with the chance to finish as the finest power-play sniper the game has ever seen.

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