Rating of Alex Ovechkin’s pursuit for 894 goals after the first season of a new contract

When Alex Ovechkin signed a five-year contract last summer to stay in Washington for the rest of his NHL career, part of the reasoning behind his contract was the chance to catch Wayne Gretzky’s mark of 894 goals in career.

“Well, you never know,” Ovechkin said last summer. ” I will do my best. That’s why I want to play five more years: To have a chance of catching the Grand, why not? If I have to be second, you know that’s also a very good number.

And in the 2021-22 season, Ovechkin showed he can still score at an elite pace even at 36. He passed Marcel Dionne, Brett Hull and Jaromir Jagr on the all-time goals list with his 50-goal campaign (which was good for fourth in the league) and catapulted himself to third all-time with 780 career goals and four years to play. his contract.

But with four years remaining on his contract, and possibly a maximum of 328 NHL games, how much more likely is he to pass Gretzky than he was a year ago?

Compared to the same time last year, he is in better shape. And he gave himself a chance to make things relatively easy throughout his career.

In order to reach 895 goals and become the NHL’s top scorer, he needed to average 33 goals per season during his entire five-year contract starting last summer. With his 50-goal season, however, he has given himself some breathing room.

At 780 goals, Ovechkin needs 115 goals to overtake Gretzky. Over four seasons, that averages 28.75 goals per season — a mark Ovechkin has achieved in all but one of his 17 NHL seasons. The only blemish came in the pandemic-shortened 45-game season in 2021, when he scored 24 goals.

With a solid outing in the first year of his contract, he’s put himself in a position where, if he scores 50 goals again, or even approaches the number, the conversation will eventually turn to ‘when’. it will pass Gretzky, not “if.”

But even Ovechkin isn’t immune to Father Time, as the chances of the 37-year-old future Russian striker continuing to score 50 goals a season as he approaches his 40s remain unlikely. In fact, for Ovechkin to pass Gretzky, he will need to score at an unprecedented rate for his age.

Only two players in NHL history (John Bucyk and Brendan Shanahan) have scored 40 or more goals in their 37 seasons. By comparison, Gretzky scored 23 goals and Gordie Howe scored 29 during their 37-year-old seasons – although Howe scored 44 goals at age 40.

And while Ovechkin is pretty good at covering it up, he’s still not the player he was in his twenties.

During Ovechkin’s 17 seasons in the NHL, he averaged 4.76 shots per game, by hockey reference. He hasn’t reached that level since the 2015-16 season.

Of the 10 seasons Ovechkin has posted his highest shot-per-night totals, all 10 have come when he was 30 or younger. His six seasons starting at age 31 rank among the last seven of his career in shots per game, with the sole exception of his 26-year-old season in 2011-12 when the team played “Hunter Hockey”, a more defensive style of play.

Still, Ovechkin scored last season on 15% of his shots made, the third highest mark of his career. Ironically, three of his most effective seasons have come in the past four years. For any normal player of this age, it would be a sign that a retirement is near. Of course, Ovechkin is not a normal player.

Even without Ovechkin generating the shots he once managed, and even though his scoring chances diminish with age, 115 goals is certainly an achievable feat for the generation’s top scorer.

Moreover, he should join an elite company on the way to Gretzky.

With a 30-goal season in 2022-23, he would tie Mike Gartner for the most 30-goal seasons in NHL history. If Ovechkin scores 40 goals, he will hold the record for most 40-goal seasons in league history. If Ovechkin scores 50 goals, he will be the only player in NHL history to record double-digit 50-goal seasons.

Ovechkin is also just 20 goals shy of 800 all-time tally, 21 from matching Gordie Howe’s total of 801 and 22 from taking the lone possession for second place on the all-time scoring list. . If Ovechkin maintains his pace from last season, there’s a chance he’ll get second place before halfway through the season.

But even then, the eyes of the hockey world will be on 894 and the pursuit of Gretzky.

The numbers to know now are 28.75the average he needs over the last four years of his contract, and 115, the total number he needs to pass Gretzky. It’s a pursuit that will grip the sports world, and Year 2 of his new contract is just as crucial as Year 1 to giving himself a better shot at eclipsing Gretzky.

If Ovechkin scored 45 goals, it would be 825 by the end of the 2022-23 season. That would leave him with just 70 goals to score to pass Gretzky, and just 23.33 goals per season on average. As you get older, it is essential to make it easier for yourself in the future by scoring in the present.

No matter how split it is, however, compared to this time last year, and perhaps every summer before this, catching Gretzky seems more possible than ever.

Posted In NHL

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