Is Alex Ovechkin still in the hunt of Wayne Gretzky’s all-time goals record?

Photo credit:Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Ryley Delaney
4 months ago
There are several Wayne Gretzky records that will never be broken, such as his 50 goals in 39 in the 1981-82 season, his 215 points in 1985-86, or his point total of 2857. 
However, one of Gretzky’s records could be broken in the near future, and the Edmonton Oilers face the team that ices that player. In his career, Gretzky scored 894 goals in 1487 games, while Alex Ovechkin, one of the most prolific scorers in National Hockey League history, has 840 goals in 1407 games played.
You don’t need me to tell you how good Ovechkin is. He’s a nine-time 50-goal scorer and has hit 30 goals in all but one (soon to be two) of his 19 seasons in the NHL. The first time he didn’t hit it, he scored 24 goals in 45 games during the cursed 2020-21 season with only 48 games to hit 30 goals.
The soon-to-be season, obviously, is this season. After a 42-goal, 75-point performance in 73 games with the Washington Capitals in 2022-23, hopes were high that Ovechkin could get even closer to Gretzky’s record this year. However, he only has 18 goals and 48 points in 60 games this season for the Capitals, and is pacing for 24 on the campaign.
This season didn’t start off great for Ovechkin, as he scored just eight goals through his first 43 games played. However, he’s been on a bit of a heater recently, as he has 10 goals (and 19 points) over his last 17 games played. The Capitals only have 19 games remaining on their schedule this season.
Thankfully, Ovechkin still has two seasons remaining on his contract with the Capitals, meaning he has at least 183 more games to chase down Gretzky’s record. As of now, he needs just 55 goals to break the record. Easy for a prolific scorer, right?
Well, it’s not quite so easy to predict. There are a few factors that hinder Ovechkin’s chase, with the biggest being that he’s 38 years old and not getting any younger. When the last season on his contract rolls around in 2025-26, Ovechkin will start the season as a 40-year-old, and there aren’t a whole lot of 40-year-olds playing hockey in the NHL, much less scoring 20+ goals.
In fact, there are just 13 instances where a player 40 or older has scored 20 or more goals. Gordie Howe reached that plateau at ages 40, 41, and 42, and nearly did it at age 51 as well. Jaromir Jágr is the oldest player to hit 20+ goals, having done so in his age 43 season, as well as his age 41 season. Johnny Buyck and Teemu Selänne both were able to accomplish this feat in their age 40 and 41 seasons, while Dean Prentice, Mark Recchi, Dave Andreychuk, and Gary Roberts all did it once in their age 40 seasons.
With age comes a decline in ability. Every athlete in every sport has to face this, and it sucks seeing players you grew up watching retire.

Feb 11, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) skates before their game against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden.

There is another factor working against Ovechkin, and it’s the fact that the Capitals just aren’t that good of a team anymore. This season, the Capitals have a 30-24-9 record with 69 points, three back of both the New York Islanders and the Detroit Red Wings, for the final Wild Card spot out east. Despite having one of the most prolific goal scorers in the history of the sport, the Capitals have the fourth-fewest goals in the league this season, with only the San Jose Sharks, Chicago Blackhawks, and Anaheim Ducks having fewer.
It doesn’t help that Ovechkin has lost two great playmaking centres as well. Nicklas Bäckström is one of the most underrated players in the history of the game and set up so many goals for Ovechkin. Unfortunately, the 36-year-old had hip resurfacing surgery prior to the start of the 2022-23 season and has played just 47 games the past two seasons, including eight games in 2023-24 before taking a step back from the game. The hip resurfacing surgery is a notorious surgery that only one player, Patrick Kane, has returned to form from. 
The other good play-making centre Ovechkin played with was Evgeny Kuznetsov. At one point, Kuznetsov had 27 goals and 83 points and hit the 50-assist plateau four times in his 11-year career. Things looked okay in 2022-23, when he scored 12 goals and 55 points, but he fell off a cliff in 2023-24, scoring just six goals and 17 points in 43 games. Prior to the trade deadline, the Capitals traded him to the Carolina Hurricanes.
While age and losing two important teammates work against Ovechkin’s favour, it’s still Alexander Ovechkin. There’s never been a player like him in the history of the game, and there may never be another player like him. A lot of those 40+ year-olds had one thing in common—they were fantastic scorers in their prime, and they knew how to score.
Although he’s had a rough season by his standards, Ovechkin still knows how to score, and scoring 55 goals in 183 games should be easy work for him. It helps that the Capitals will do everything in their power to continue to be competitive until Ovechkin retires, so expect them to try and find a playmaking centre this off-season.
With all that being said, the Oilers will welcome one of the greatest players in league history on Wednesday. If you’re going to the game, soak in the greatness on the ice, as it may be one of the last times Ovechkin will play in Edmonton.
While I’m rooting for him to break Gretzky’s record, let’s hope he doesn’t put a big dent in that race tonight.
If you enjoy my content, you can follow me on Twitter @Brennan_L_D.

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