Gretzky: ‘Not even a question’ Ovechkin will become NHL’s all-time leading goal scorer

Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin celebrates after teammate Tom Wilson scored a goal in the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Buffalo Sabres. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

Records are made to be broken, as they say, even ones that seem insurmountable.

The question of “Will Alexander Ovechkin break the NHL’s all-time goals scored record?” has become slightly altered – we may have to replace “Will” with “When.” At least that’s what The Great One, Wayne Gretzky, believes.

“It’s not even a question that he will pass me, and I think it’s great,” Gretzky told David Waldstein of The New York Times last week. “He’s well on his way to 40 or 50 goals this year, maybe more. There is no doubt that, ultimately, he will break the record.”

With 752 career goals, Ovechkin sits fourth on the NHL’s all-time list, behind Jaromir Jagr (766), Gordie Howe (801) and Gretzky (894).

This season, Ovechkin has scored 22 goals, on pace for 57, and has already passed Marcel Dionne and Brett Hull on the all-time list. He also tied Dave Andreychuk as the all-time leader in power-play goals when he blasted home a signature one-timer against the Chicago Blackhawks on Dec. 15.

Gretzky has enjoyed watching Ovechkin light it up, rooting for him every step of the way.

“I’m his biggest fan,” said Gretzky, whose 2,857 career points put him 936 ahead of Jagr in second place and 1,490 ahead of Ovechkin.

The two stay in contact, with Gretzky sending supportive texts when Ovechkin hits a rare dry spell, reminding the winger that goals will come, and sometimes in bunches.

What makes Ovechkin’s potential feat even more impressive is the fact that it’s happening in the modern day and modern NHL.

During the early-to-mid ’80s, Gretzky’s Oilers would consistently score five-plus goals per game, peaking in the 1983-84 season, when Edmonton registered a staggering 5.58 goals per contest. That team boasted three 50-goal scorers with Gretzky (87), Glenn Anderson (54) and Jari Kurri (52).

Compare that to Ovechkin’s Capitals and the 2021-22 league average of roughly 2.9 goals scored per game, and things are put into perspective.

Since Ovechkin has entered the league, in 2005-06, no other player has come close to matching his goal-scoring production, with Sidney Crosby next, at 490. To examine the full extent of Ovechkin’s modern-day dominance, take a look at the top-10 goal scorers since 2005-06.

Ovechkin’s presence isn’t just felt inside the net or on the boxscore, he is one of the most physical goal scorers in today’s NHL and of all-time.

According to the NHL Network’s statistics, Ovechkin has tallied 3,160 career hits through November. His 42 hits total this season equals that of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl combined.

“There’s a number of great goal scorers in the league,” teammate T.J. Oshie told the New York Times. “None of them hits like Ovi does. It’s what makes him so great. He’s a monster.”

Sometimes the 6-foot-3″, 240-pound Russian doesn’t know his own strength.

“He hugged me so hard once, I was like, ‘OK, I need to see the trainer,’” Oshie said. “He’s like a two-year-old puppy that doesn’t know how big he is.”

Goal scoring and individual accolades had always come easy for Ovechkin, but it was his team’s success and lifting the Stanley Cup that really drove him.

Five years ago, Ovechkin and Gretzky went to dinner, where the former peppered the latter with questions.

“What I found really nice was that he wasn’t asking me about scoring goals — he doesn’t need to ask anyone about that,” Gretzky said. “He wanted to know about getting his team over the line to win the Stanley Cup. It was refreshing.”

Ovechkin finally raised Lord Stanley’s trophy in June 2018, when the Capitals beat the Vegas Golden Knights in five games. Currently sitting second in the Metropolitan Division, Ovechkin and the Capitals may have another shot at a deep playoff run in 2022.

With the pinnacle in sight, Ovechkin could defy logic and reason and catch Gretzky to reach the top of the NHL goal-scoring mountain.

To reach such a peak, Ovechkin simply needs to keep doing what he’s done since as long as he can remember.

“I’ve always loved to score goals,” Ovechkin said in the Times interview.


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