A new season brings with it the chance for some of the game’s all-time greats to accomplish exceptional feats. The 2016-17 campaign is no different, and there are nine players and one set of twins chasing down some memorable career milestones.
Beyond being one of the most impressive debuts in the history of the NHL, Auston Matthews’ four-goal performance marked a milestone for the 19-year-old first-overall selection: it was his first career hat trick.
The first of how many, no one can know, but it was still the first, and that’s an important one to knock down. For some players, scoring a hat trick takes nearly an entire career, and that goes for even some of the league’s greatest players. For instance, it took Patrick Kane, 2015-16’s MVP, until shortly after his 27th birthday to notch his first hat trick.
But the season for Matthews appears as though it will hold many milestones, and, if all goes well, his career should see him reach that many more. He’s not the only chasing milestones this season, though. Here are 10 players with major accomplishments in their sights:
Jaromir Jagr, 1,700 games played
Currently: 1,629 games played
It’s hard to fathom that there’s a major statistical category that the 44-year-old wonder hasn’t yet reached the top-five in during his NHL career, but he’s set to do that and more this coming campaign as he sits only 71 games away from reaching the 1,700-game mark.
While that’s not a round milestone — a 1,000th or 1,500th game, for example — the 1,700th game represents a milestone for Jagr in that only three players in the history of the league have reached it before. Gordie Howe is the all-time leader, of course, at 1,767 games in the NHL, followed by Mark Messier (1,756) and Ron Francis (1,731).
That said, Jagr needs only 23 games to crack the top-five all-time and pass Chris Chelios’ mark of 1,651 games.
Marian Hossa, 500 goals
Currently: 499 goals
Hossa had his chance to get his 500th goal in the Chicago Blackhawks’ home opener, but it’ll have to wait until at least the second game of the campaign. As it stands, Hossa is just one goal away from becoming the 44th player in history to reach the mark, and he can quickly move up the all-time goals list with each subsequent tally.
He may be coming off of a disappointing offensive campaign, but Hossa remains one of the strongest two-way players in the game, even at the ripe old age of 37. His 13-goal campaign during the 2015-16 season was the worst single-season mark of his career, barring his goalless seven-game stint with the Ottawa Senators as a 19-year-old.
Patrick Marleau, 500 goals
Currently: 481 goals
Everything Marleau has accomplished in the NHL, he has done as a member of the San Jose Sharks. And if the veteran sticks around for yet another full campaign in the Bay Area — it will be his 19th — he has a serious shot at earning his 500th goal as a Shark.
Unlike Hossa, Marleau has a bit of work to do in order to get to the 500-goal plateau and it’s going to take yet another 20-goal campaign. Luckily for Marleau, he’s shown that he can still contribute offensively if given the chance.
During his age 36 season in 2015-16, Marleau potted 25 goals and 48 points while averaging second-line minutes. In his debut this season, he skated a more true middle-six role, but he still mustered four shots on goal. If he keeps that up, goal 500 should fall this campaign.
Joe Thornton, 1,000 assists
Currently: 965 assists
How Joe Thornton has been able to maintain his level of play over the course of the past few years is a mystery, but the veteran pivot is one of the best playmakers the game has ever seen and his ability doesn’t appear to be slipping with age. Take the 2015-16 season, for instance.
After a down year in 2014-15, Thornton came back with a 63-assist season en route to being a point-per-game player at 36. That’s almost unheard of, and now he’s set himself up to become one of only 13 players to reach the 1,000 assist mark. The last player to do so was Joe Sakic, and he retired more than more than seven seasons ago.
Henrik and Daniel Sedin, 1,000 points
Currently: 970 and 942 points
If one Sedin is going to accomplish something, the other Sedin is going to be right there managing the same feat. Don’t believe it? Consider that this is the same brotherly duo who, in back-to-back years, achieved MVP honors and won the scoring race. Henrik won the scoring title in 2009-10 with 29 goals and 112 points, and Daniel followed the next year with 41 goals and 104 points.
Now, both are en route to reaching the 1,000-point plateau.
The first to reach the mark will likely be Henrik, who is only 30 points shy of the feat, while Daniel reaching the milestone could take until the very last game of the season. He scored 61 points this past season and sits 58 points shy of the mark, so he’s going to have to replicate his scoring pace from 2015-16 in order to celebrate 1,000 points in 2016-17.
Alex Ovechkin, 1,000 points
Currently: 966 points
Alex Ovechkin is going to reach the 1,000-point plateau before he plays his 1,000th game in the league, of that you can be sure, and the question this season isn’t so much if Ovechkin reaches 1,000 points, but when he manages to do so. Scoring 34 points shouldn’t take Ovechkin much longer than half the season, so expect him to have celebrated the milestone by the all-star break.
However, reaching the 1,000-point mark isn’t the only milestone Ovechkin is chasing. This season could also (read: will likely) see him score his 200th power play goal, as he’s currently only five off the mark. Only 17 players in league history have been that effective with the extra man, and 10 power play goals would actually push him into 15th place all-time ahead of some guy named Wayne Gretzky.
Sidney Crosby, 1,000 points
Currently: 938 points
Put a big asterisk next to this one and hope and pray that Crosby can recover from his concussion in time to make some magic this season. The 29-year-old would have already been at the 1,000-point mark had it not been for concussions in the past, but he’s still got a chance to reach the millennium mark happen before his 30th birthday.
For Crosby, 62 points shouldn’t be an insurmountable total no matter how he starts, and that’s especially true after the show he put on in the second half of the 2015-16 season. In the 52 games after Mike Sullivan took over during the past season, Crosby netted 30 goals and 66 points. The scariest part is that level of production was slightly below his career points per game pace of 1.33.
Jarome Iginla, 100 game-winning goal
Currently: 97 game-winning goals
Sadly, it doesn’t seem like there are many games left in ‘Iggy.’ Now 39, Iginla has spent the past two seasons with the Colorado Avalanche and he has remained productive, but he very much appeared to have lost a step as he slipped down the lineup this past season. That didn’t stop him, however, from scoring 20 goals for the 17th time in his career.
He can join exclusive company this season, though, and all he really needs are three well-timed goals. Only five players in NHL history have scored 100 game-winning goals, and if Iginla can match the three game-winners he scored in 2015-16 in the coming campaign, he’ll join Brendan Shanahan, Teemu Selanne, Brett Hull, Phil Esposito and Jaromir Jagr as the sixth player with 100 game-winning goals.
Henrik Lundqvist, 400 wins
Lundqvist is a Vezina Trophy winner, five-time finalist and one of the greatest goaltenders of the modern era, but he has his chance to have his name said in the same sentence as some of the greatest of all-time if he can reach the 400-win mark. The 300-win club includes goaltenders such as Tomas Vokoun, Nikolai Khabibulin and Evgeni Nabokov, but the 400-win club is something special.
It’s a reasonable goal for Lundqvist, too, because in every single NHL season of his career, barring the lockout-shortened campaign, Lundqvist has won 30 games. So winning 26 this season should be a cake walk, right?
There’s an extra wrinkle for Lundqvist this season, though. If he wins 30 games once again, he’ll bump Grant Fuhr, who has 403 career wins, out of 10th all-time. He would be the only goalie in the top 10 who not only started his career post-1999, but the only one whose career started post-lockout.
Roberto Luongo, fourth all-time in wins
Currently: 436 wins, 7th all-time
The expectation over the past few seasons was that eventually, as some point, Luongo’s game would fall off and his career would be an absolute anchor. Instead, the veteran puckstopper has been incredibly useful and remains among the class of the league. Now, is he challenging for the Vezina Trophy on an annual basis? Maybe not every year, but he did this past season, finishing fourth in voting.
With that in mind, consider this: Luongo could surpass some of the greatest netminders in the history of the game this coming season and conceivably move into fourth all-time in victories.
The move up the all-time list will start with his second victory, at which point he will have tied and surpassed Hall of Famer Jacques Plante, who has 437 wins to his name. With another 10 victories — 12 on the season — Luongo will move into sole possession of fifth all-time by passing Terry Sawchuk’s 447 victories. After that, Luongo will sit six wins away from tying and seven victories shy of passing Curtis Joseph for fourth all-time on the wins list.
It’s not beyond reason to imagine Luongo passing Ed Belfour, he of 484 wins, for third all-time by the time the end of the 2017-18 campaign rolls around. Catching up to Patrick Roy (551 wins) and Martin Brodeur (691 wins) is going to take a bit more work, though.
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