Jaromir Jagr is somewhat of an expert when it comes to scoring goals, and the grizzled vet believes Alex Ovechkin has what it takes to break Wayne Gretzky's all-time goals record.
"Earlier I thought Ovechkin doesn't have any chances to break Gretzky's goal record," Jagr said Monday in Moscow, according to NHL.com. "It was six years ago. But Alex has changed and became a better and more effective hockey player than he was in [his] youth. I think he works harder now. He'll be able to [break Gretzky's record] if he can stay healthy and keep working as hard as now."
Ovechkin, 35, currently sits eighth on the all-time list with 706 goals, a number that would surely be higher had he not lost games to two lockouts and a global pandemic. Gretzky retired with 894.
Ovechkin said recently in an interview in Russian that he hopes to finish his career in the KHL with Dynamo Moscow, the team he's played with during past NHL lockouts. He currently has two years left on his contract with the Washington Capitals but suggested in the interview that he only wants to play for the Capitals and Dynamo as "a matter of principle."
"It is clear, in two, three, four years, maybe five, I will end my career in Washington," he said. "I want to end on a beautiful note – to play my last match for Dynamo Moscow."
The 48-year-old Jagr is still playing in his native Czech Republic for Kladno, a team he also owns, and is third on the all-time goals list with 766.
While the pandemic disrupted play in the Czech Republic, Jagr has his eyes set on returning to the ice with his team next year. Kladno, which was relegated to the second division last season, is scheduled to play a pandemic-delayed outdoor game in December of 2021.
"This year is very different from others," the future Hall of Famer said. "We don't know what is waiting for us tomorrow and it takes a lot of energy. This year I wasn't practicing as hard as in previous years but I still want to play this season. I think it might happen in the playoffs. I want to be a player who helps his team to win. I'm not this player now but I want to help [Kladno] to return to the top division.
"I can't say how long I want to keep playing. The game is getting more difficult. I think I kind of lost the drive when I wanted to prove that I'm still capable of getting better. I feel a lack of motivation to keep playing, though this year is definitely not the last in my career."