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Ageless Ovechkin: Capitals superstar set to chase another Rocket – and Gretzky's all-time mark

After 'Ovie' set the record for 50-goal seasons at 33, we’re starting to wonder if The Great One’s all-time mark is safe.

Never. Doubt. Alex. Ovechkin. Again. At The Hockey News, we’ve learned to repeat that mantra in the mirror three times daily.

One year ago, he was fresh off a magical season that included a Rocket Richard Trophy, Stanley Cup, Conn Smythe Trophy and a constant flow of viral celebration videos. ‘Ovie’ was entering his age-33 campaign and, at least anecdotally, had partied harder in the off-season than any Cup-winning captain in recent memory. So when we tallied our staff award predictions for the 2018-19 season, we figured he’d earned a rest after seven Rocket Richard Trophies and would hand the goal-scoring mantle off to Patrik Laine.

Instead, Ovechkin scored a league-best 51 goals. He passed Bobby Hull to establish a new NHL record for times leading the league in goals at eight. The 50-goal effort was Ovechkin’s eighth, placing him one behind Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy for the NHL record. Ovechkin became the oldest player to lead the league in goals since Gordie Howe did it at 34 in 1962-63.

Pound for pound, shot for shot, era for era, Ovechkin may be the greatest goal-scorer ever to walk the earth. He defies age-based logic. That’s why we’ve eschewed the idea of doubting him this year. For our 2019-20 prediction poll of all THN’s writers and editors, Ovechkin easily won the Rocket Richard vote, earning the most first-place votes and total votes. Theoretically, he should show signs of aging one of these seasons, and he’s had a few down years in which it finally looked like the decline had arrived, but we’ve learned to acknowledge him as superhuman.

Has he actually shown any signs of slowing down yet? Maybe a little. His 11.97 shots per 60 minutes last season marked the second-lowest rate of his 14-year career. On the other hand, that number still ranked him third in the NHL among all players with 500-plus minutes played, so he’s declined in shot volume from “god-like” to “merely awesome.” He did post the highest shooting percentage of his career at 15.1 percent last season, meaning we could expect a mini-regression in luck toward his career average of 12.6, and aging could shrink his shot volume a bit. Offsetting those factors, though, is Ovechkin’s incredibly generous power-play usage. Last season, he led the NHL with a hilarious 4:25 per game. That was the highest mark for any qualified forward in the past five seasons, and Ovechkin owns the three highest average power-play TOI marks over that stretch. His Washington Capitals tied for 16th in power-play chances last season, so with a little luck, Ovechkin’s time with the extra man could actually increase further in 2019-20.

Even if 50 goals will be tough to achieve again, Ovechkin’s floor still looks like 40 to 45, making him the safest pick for the Rocket Richard. He already has the record for most Rockets, though. The more exciting milestone for him to chase now, of course, is Gretzky’s NHL-record 894 career goals. Can Ovechkin surpass it?

For fun, let’s give him five more NHL seasons, scoring at his 12.6-percent career accuracy clip, playing the same minutes as last season but dropping his shot rate by 10 percent per season, assuming he starts to put fewer pucks on net as he ages. We’d get seasons of 38, 34, 31, 27 and 25 goals. That would add 155 to his current career total of 658, getting him to 813 goals heading into his age-39 season.

And those estimates are pretty conservative, right? What if he delivers another 50-goal season or two? Gretzky’s record of 894 isn’t safe yet. The closer Ovechkin gets, the more he’ll crave it.


1. Connor McDavid, Edm
2. Nathan MacKinnon, Col
3. Nikita Kucherov, TB
4. Aleksander Barkov, Fla
5. Sidney Crosby, Pit

1. Connor McDavid, Edm
2. Nikita Kucherov, TB
3. Nathan MacKinnon, Col
4. Patrick Kane, Chi
5. Johnny Gaudreau, Cgy

1. Alex Ovechkin, Wsh
2. Auston Matthews, Tor
3. Connor McDavid, Edm
4. Patrik Laine, Wpg
5. Leon Draisaitl, Edm

1. Victor Hedman, TB
2. Brent Burns, SJ
3. Seth Jones, Clb
4. P.K. Subban, NJ
5. John Carlson, Wsh

1. Andrei Vasilevskiy, TB
2. Sergei Bobrovsky, Fla
3. Ben Bishop, Dal
4. Frederik Andersen, Tor
5. Connor Hellebuyck, Wpg

1. Cale Makar, Col
2. Jack Hughes, NJ
3. Kaapo Kakko, NYR
4. Quinn Hughes, Van
5. Cody Glass, Veg

1. Joel Quenneville, Fla
2. Jared Bednar, Col
3. Jon Cooper, TB
4. Alain Vigneault, Phi
5. Rod Brind’Amour, Car


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