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Milestone Watch: Five NHLers About to Hit New Highs

Fans have witnessed a staggering amount of major milestones this season, with players seemingly reaching new historical heights with each passing game. There might be a few more in short order, too.
Alex Ovechkin

Fans have witnessed a staggering amount of major milestones this season, with players seemingly reaching new historical heights with each passing game. 

To that, I say: Why stop there? 

Here are five players who sit perilously close to hitting some important career milestones before the season is done. 

5. Phil Kessel 

Two goals away from 400

It's debatable as to whether or not Phil Kessel can reach this milestone before the season is over. Despite hovering around the 30-to-40-goal range during his prime, Kessel's goal-scoring prowess has dipped in 2021-22, with the 34-year-old only sitting with seven in 69 games. 

But that doesn't take away from just how impressive this feat is. 

Kessel truly is the little engine that could. 

The guy has dispelled the doubters at every level of his career -- from being derided as a bad teammate by Jack Johnson in a pre-draft interview only to become perhaps the NHL's best "lockerroom guy", to being cast as someone not capable of winning only to play a major role in the Penguins' back-to-back Stanley Cups, to being labeled as "soft" early in his career only to be a shoo-in to take over the league's Ironman streak. 

And now, he sits just two goals away from 400. Remarkable.  

This milestone has some serious ramifications, too. If Kessel manages to reach it before his playing career is done -- which is practically inevitable given the whole Ironman streak thing -- he will have crafted a Hall of Fame case that is practically undeniable. 

A two-time Cup-winner with well over 1,000 games played, and now 400 goals? How can anyone claim that's not worthy? 

As a society, we are almost certainly two goals away from Phil Kessel: Hockey Hall of Famer. 

And that, my friends, is beautiful. 

4. Alexander Ovechkin 

One point away from 1,400 

What more needs to be said about Alexander Ovechkin? 

The fella is the greatest goal-scorer in NHL history, put years of mindless slander to bed by finally conquering the Stanley Cup hurdle, and, at least for my adolescence, made hockey cool. 

It seems like Ovechkin is setting a new historical benchmark each night. But the allure of 1,400 points is on another level, for two main reasons. 

For one, Ovechkin has 774 career goals. And while that's impressive, obviously, it also means that the other 627 points he currently sits with had to come from somewhere else: assists. 

Some of the game's most prolific playmakers haven't sniffed that number. Put up against active players, and Ovechkin's assist totals outnumber those of Patrice Bergeron, Eric Staal, and Jonathan Toews, to name a few. 

Reaching the 1,400-point plateau will not only stand as a remarkable achievement for a terrific player, but also provide definitive proof that Ovechkin is more than the one-dimensional sniper his critics often cast him to be. 

As for the second reason, for those who stuck around to read this far: Sidney Crosby is just three points away from the same milestone. 

And that's just really cool. 

3. Jason Spezza 

Nine points away from 1,000

I just like it when good things happen to good people. Don't you? 

Jason Spezza is one of the good ones. Anyone fortunate enough to have crossed his path is left with nothing but glowing things to say about the 37-year-old, with Spezza even being most known for his iconically goofy laugh that is contagious to all who hear it. 

He's also a pretty darn good hockey player. And earning his spot in the elite 1,000-point club might give his Hall of Fame argument the push it needs if Spezza does end his career without a Cup. 

The Maple Leafs have already celebrated another hometown veteran's milestone earlier this season when Wayne Simmonds played his 1,000th game. Getting to pull out the red carpet for another, and especially one as revered in the organization as Spezza is, would be extremely cool to see. 

He'll need to go on a tear by his standards to do it this season, but it's not impossible. 

2. Chris Kreider 

Four goals away from 50 in 2021-22

No one saw this coming. You didn't. I didn't. I bet even Kreider didn't. 

But here we are, four goals away from Chris Kreider: 50-goal scorer. Life is crazy. 

It's not as if Kreider was a bum before his ridiculous 2021-22 goal surge. Not by any means. It's just that his previous career-high in that area was 28, set back in the Before Times of the 2018-19 season, when no one had ever heard of social distancing and Zoom was simply known as a 2006 superhero film starring Tim Allen that made $12.5 million on a $75 million budget. 

Those were simpler times. Those were better times. 

Regardless, Kreider has come out of nowhere to challenge for the Rocket Richard in his 10th NHL season. Rarely in the modern era of sports science do you see NHLers reach a new level at age-30. 

But Kreider has. And if he can manage to squeak another four pucks by opposing goaltenders before the year is out, we'll have witnessed one of the truly unpredictable single-season ascents to superstardom. 

1. Carey Price

One shutout away from 50 

Carey Price has been through the ringer -- on the ice and off. But he's battled back from it all to stand on the precipice of a return to play this season. 

Frankly, if Price manages to suit up for a real-life NHL game this season, that will be the most impressive feat of all. But how sweet would it be if he ends up capping his miraculous return to the Canadiens' crease by earning his 50th career shutout? 

Only 30-or-so netminders have ever blanked their opponent 50 times in their NHL career. Price would be joining some pretty elite company if he can do it. And it would also give Habs fans a special moment in a season that has produced so few. 

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