The NHL has changed plenty in the past 12 years but one player hasn't missed a beat during all of it: Phil Kessel.
Kessel, 35, last missed a game in November of 2009 — despite navigating a lockout, a global pandemic and the birth of his first child. Now, as a member of the Vegas Golden Knights, Kessel has a chance to write himself into the record books this season.
That milestone is just one of many that could be hit by players this upcoming campaign. Here are some of the notable ones we'll be watching for.
Phil Kessel, Vegas Golden Knights: Eight games away from 990 consecutive games played
By the end of October, Kessel has a chance to surpass Keith Yandle and officially become the NHL's all-time iron man with 990 consecutive games played. Then in November, if everything goes to plan, Kessel has a chance to become the first player in NHL history to play 1,000 consecutive games.
Yandle and Kessel both began their iron-man streaks in 2009 and both passed the previous leader — Doug Jarvis at 964 — last season, breaking a record that had stood for 35 years.
Kessel could tie Yandle's record of 989 games against the Toronto Maple Leafs — the team he was playing for when his streak began — on Oct. 24. His 990th consecutive game would then come against the San Jose Sharks on Oct. 25 and his 1,000th consecutive game would be against the Arizona Coyotes — the team he played the last three seasons with — on Nov. 17.
Yandle saw his streak end last season and he just announced his retirement in September. But retirement doesn't seem to be in Kessel's immediate feature. With 52 points last season he can still be an important contributor in the league. In fact, he has another milestone to chase down this season — 400 goals. With one more goal, Kessel will become just the 106th player to score 400 times, another reminder of the impact he's made during his career.
Brent Burns, now of the Carolina Hurricanes, is the only other active player with an iron-man streak in the top-10 all time, with a streak of 679 games that dates back to 2013.
Alex Ovechkin has been quickly climbing the all-time goal-scoring ranks and very possibly could trail just Wayne Gretzky by the end of the season.
Ovechkin, now 37, is 20 goals away from becoming just the third man to score 800 in his career. If he gets to 802, he'll pass "Mr. Hockey" Gordie Howe to be No. 2 on the list.
Barring a catastrophic injury, Ovechkin should easily leap over Howe. In his 17 seasons, Ovechkin has only scored less than 30 goals once — when he scored 24 goals in the pandemic-shortened 2020-21 campaign. Even last season, at age 36, he cracked the 50-goal mark for the ninth time, tying Gretzky and Mike Bossy for the most 50-goal seasons ever.
Ovechkin is in the second year of a five-year contract, meaning he thinks he can play long enough to chase down Gretzky. But when asked about it, he said he's more focused on winning another Stanley Cup than any personal milestones.
"I'm at the age that personal goals are nice, but we understand every year [you get closer] to the end of your career," he said during training camp. "So I just want to win. I want to be in the playoffs and fight for the Cup."
Steven Stamkos might be the second-best goal scorer of his generation and he could have been among the all-time greats if his career hadn't been disrupted by multiple major injuries. But now he's back at the top of his game and has a chance to hit a major milestone this season: 500 goals.
The 32-year-old broke the 40 goals mark for the sixth time last season, netting 42 in 81 games. His career-best mark remains the 60 goals he scored in 2011-12 but his career has been derailed by a broken leg, blood clots and a core muscle injury in the time since. He hasn't let that slow him down and once he breaks the 500-goal mark, it's easy to imagine him chasing down 600 before his career is over.
Other goal-scoring milestones to watch for: John Tavares, nine away from 400; Claude Giroux, six away from 300; Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, two away from 200; Elias Pettersson, three away from 100.
McDavid is already entering his eighth NHL season but it feels like he's just hitting his prime. This season, he'll hit an important achievement when he skates in his 500th career game on Nov. 7 in D.C. against the Capitals.
The 25-year-old superstar has been consistently among the league leaders for most of his career, already winning four Art Ross Trophies, two Hart Trophies and three Ted Lindsay Awards. But where does he rank among the all-time greats at this point in his career?
Points Per Game
If McDavid keeps scoring at his current pace, he will be at 715 points when he hits 500 games which would be the sixth-most all-time. It would also put him slightly ahead of another all-time great in Sidney Crosby, adding further fuel to the debate over which generational star is better.
Gretzky vs. Lemieux. Now McDavid vs. Crosby. Hockey fans — especially in Edmonton and Pittsburgh — have been spoiled by greatness.
Other games-played milestones to watch for: Ryan Suter, 20 away from 1,300; Milan Lucic, four away from 1,100; Evgeni Malkin, 19 away from 1,000; Sergei Bobrovsky, eight away from 600.
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins: Eight assists away from 900
Crosby has consistently put up points over his entire career and this season he's on track to surpass 900 assists and move into the top-20 all-time for that statistic.
With 892 assists, Crosby is currently 21st on the all-time list but he can pass a group of Hall-Of-Famers this season — Phil Housley (894), Bryan Trottier (901), Stan Mikita (926), Larry Murphy (929) and Al MacInnis (934) — to move up to 16th place.
Crosby somewhat quietly had 31 goals and 84 points last season, showing that he still deserves to be recognized as a scoring threat in the league. The now 35-year-old has three more years left on his current contract and intends to at least play that long, meaning his climb up the all-time scoring lists is far from over.
“I’m thinking about three more years and then seeing what happens from there. I know it doesn't do me any good to look past that. I know I want to continue to play high level,” Crosby said recently on 32 Thoughts: The Podcast.
Other assist milestones to watch for: Jonathan Toews, five away from 500; Johnny Gaudreau, one away from 400; Mark Giordano, seven away from 400; Nazem Kadri, seven away from 300.
There was a time when Quick was consistently one of the best goalies in the NHL. While those days are over, the 36-year-old remains a solid contributor to the Kings and this season that longevity might be rewarded.
With 16 more wins, Quick will move into second all-time among U.S.-born goalies with 375, passing Hall of Famer Tom Barrasso (369) and John Vanbiesbrouck (374).
Quick has spent his entire 15-year career with the Kings and is entering the final season of a 10-year, $58-million contract. Ryan Miller is the all-time American-born wins leader with 391 but if Quick continues his career beyond this season, that record could be in jeopardy.