Drew Doughty is set to play his 1,000th NHL game when the Los Angeles Kings take on the New York Islanders tonight, making him the 358th player in league history to ever reach that illustrious milestone.
It seems like just yesterday that Doughty was a young, scrappy defender stealing Norris Trophies from Erik Karlsson while playing top minutes on a Kings team that came ever so close to becoming a dyansty. Now, Doughty is a greybeard veteran guiding an entirely new generation of Kings prospects.
My, how the time flies.
Doughty's achievement got me thinking, though. What other active players are close to reaching that monument 1,000-game mark? And who could achieve it this season?
Let's take a look at the five players sitting closest to their own 1,000-game milestone.
Claude Giroux, Andrew Laad, Nick Foligno - 17 games from 1,000
Jack Johnson - 13 Games from 1,000
It's been years since Jack Johnson was considered an effective NHL defenseman. Some argue he never was.
Frankly, I'm not good enough at math to confidently agree either way.
What I do know, however, is that Johnson is currently among the worst defenders in the league. But he's still here, folks. And the fact that this man finds himself 13 games out from 1,000 is, if nothing else, a testament to Johnson's ability to stick around -- or, more likely, to how the hockey world protects its own.
Still, better players than Johnson have gotten squeezed out of the league once their play endured a similar dip. But not Jack. No, despite the 35-year-old not scoring over 20 points since 2017, he's stuck with it, hopping from one-year deal to one-year deal over the past few years in order to keep his foot barely, just barely, wedged inside the NHL's door.
And given how Johnson has somehow suited up for 37 games this season with the Colorado Avalanche, we'll likely be celebrating Jack Johnson Night at the Pepsi Center before the year is over.
Jonathan Toews - 14 Games from 1,000
Now this one makes a lot more sense.
Toews is unique in that two opposing facts about him are true:
a) he's been around forever
and b) I still vividly remember him scoring three times in the same shootout to book Team Canada's ticket to the gold medal game at the 2007 World Juniors.
How is that possible? Beats me, man. Time is a flat circle.
But you just know the Blackhawks are going to pull out all the stops for their captain's big night when he hits the century mark. Toews is a franchise icon, after all. Not only has he been with Chicago for each of his 14 big-league seasons, but Toews' arrival changed the very trajectory of the franchise, turning the Blackhawks from a bunch of forgotten has-beens in their own market to the closest we've come to a dynasty in the modern NHL.
Of course, no conversation about the Blackhawks' success in the 2010s can be had without mentioning the horrors Kyle Beach endured at the hands of Brad Aldrich. Toews was captain at that time, and while affirming in the months since the abuse came to light that he knew nothing, either fact taints Toews' legacy, regardless.
Wayne Simmonds - 15 Games from 1,000
The fact that Simmonds' body has stayed intact long enough to get him this close to 1,000 games is nothing short of a miracle.
This man has been through the wringer when it comes to injuries over the years. Don't believe me? Well, Simmonds played through a torn pelvis in 2017. Doing so, however, caused him to overcompensate which led to a torn groin, which he then followed up with a fractured ankle, and then tied it all together by later tearing a ligament in his hand.
If you told Simmonds back then, with half his body actively shredded, that he'd likely reach the century mark in games played just four years later, even he'd have probably laughed in your face.
But the only one that's laughing now is Father Time. Because the pride of Scarborough, Ontario has evaded his deadly grasp once again. And that is worth celebrating.
Mark Giordano - 15 Games from 1,000
Is it somewhat of a bummer that Giordano won't reach his 1,000th game as a member of the Calgary Flames? Absolutely.
But that shouldn't take away anything from his achievement, which is pretty gosh darn impressive.
People tend to forget that Giordano wasn't drafted. It boggles the mind, I know. But it's true nonetheless. One of the best defenders of his era, a Norris winner who went on to captain two different teams, was passed over by every single organization in the league, multiple times.
Don't ever tell me you couldn't become an NHL GM one day.
Tangent aside, the fact that Giordano will hit 1,000 games at all, let alone as a serviceable defenseman at age-38, is truly astounding. Despite being stuck on the putrid Seattle Kraken, Giordano is still scoring at roughly a 40-point pace this season, averaging over 21 minutes per night in ice time and driving possession at a positive clip.
This is not a veteran limping over the finish line. Giordano is still pretty darn good, and might just be one of the belles of the ball at this year's trade deadline, too.
Marc Staal - 16 Games from 1,000
Like Johnson, Staal sits on the precipice of the 1,000-game mark having defied the odds at every recent turn.
Staal is no longer what most hockey fans would consider a "good defenseman".
The 35-year-old hasn't posted a CF/60 over 40 percent at even-strength since 2017, with Staal scoring under 20 points each year since 2014 as he watches his usage dwindle by the season, too. But he's still kickin'! Latching on with the Detroit Red Wings after the Rangers booted him out of the Big Apple, Staal has clearly developed a useful niche as a wise mentor figure for Detroit's stable of young prospects, doing just enough to keep him around to earn this illustrious honor.
And once he joins the Century Club alongside brothers Eric and Jordan, Marc can finally attend family gatherings with his head held high.
Good for him.