History inches closer and closer as Alex Ovechkin sees just one name – Wayne Gretzky’s – ahead of him on the NHL all-time goal-scoring leaderboard. Coming into this year, “The Great 8” sits just 72 goals away from the all-time record, and with 141 fewer games than Gretzky, it’s possible that Ovechkin could even do it at a higher per-game rate. Getting him to that record is more or less the main thing that matters for the Capitals, who got their championship out of him in 2018 and know a rebuild comes when he goes, but it’s a race against father time as they try to get as much impact play out of him while he still has it.
So what’s in store for this year? Let’s take a look.
Player At A Glance
Ovechkin just isn’t slowing down. In 2021, his 24 goals in 45 games was the fifth-highest per-game rate for a 35-year-old in the modern era. The next year, he posted the best for a 36-year-old. The year after that, was the best for a 37-year-old. Ovechkin’s progressive shift from loose-cannon power forward to the spot-up shooter who keeps finding a way has been remarkable. It’s longevity that’s giving him a shot at beating Gretzky’s record in a similar length of time, despite not having the 92, 87, 73, or 71 goal seasons that top number 99’s list.
How long he can keep producing at that rate remains a question, though. Teemu Selanne was the closest 36-year-old to Ovechkin, and he continued to score at a 30 to 40 goal place through to his Age 40 season. Brett Hull scored 37 as a 38-year-old, 25 at 39, and after the 2005 lockout, took five games to realize he couldn’t hang anymore at 41. Mark Messier hit his goal-scoring wall rather suddenly at 37, Brendan Shanahan mostly kept it together until 39, and Patrick Marleau did the same.
Ovechkin is a better goal scorer than all of the above-mentioned players, which is pretty remarkable given that we’re talking about a Hall of Fame group. His baseline to fall from is higher, his durability appears to still be there for the most part, and more importantly – none of those guys were on a team that basically exists to make him produce specifically. The Capitals don’t really have Stanley Cup or even playoff ambitions this year, and they aren’t an overly young group. These next couple of years are about a last hurrah for their golden generation, and Ovechkin is the star of that show.
|Year||ixG (5v5)||ixG (PP)||G60 (5v5)||G60 (PP)||SOG (5v5)||SOG (PP)|
If we figure that Ovechkin has the rest of his contract ahead of him to get to 895, that means he’ll have to average 24-25 goals a season to get there. If we think he might want to call it a day in two, he’ll need to average about 37 a year. Both of these rates are well below his per-82 production over the past three years. What helps that pursuit is that Ovechkin is still generating opportunity, and isn’t relying just on fortune – his expected goal rate at 5-on-5 last year was his best since 2009, and he’s still shooting at a high volume. That deadly powerplay shot from “the Ovi spot” won’t always be there, so continuing to be an effective volume shooter at even strength is key to making a big run here.
Alex Ovechkin Player Props
Available props involving Alex Ovechkin include:
- Regular Season Goals, line of 40.5 (over -120, under -110)
- To Score 40+ Goals in Regular Season (-160)
- To Score 50+ Goals in Regular Season (+750)
- To Score 60+ Goals in Regular Season (+3000)
With all of this in mind, I would expect a healthy Ovechkin to still be in the running for his main props this year. Staying healthy is obviously going to be key to this working out, true of any player but especially true for a 38-year-old with a lot of minutes logged, but the fact that his mid-late 30s have started without him losing much of a step in terms of generating looks for himself is good reason to believe that he’s capable of scoring at a high level until he gives us reason to believe otherwise. If he gets close to a full 82 games and the powerplay is particularly hot (getting back o-zone guru Spencer Carbury from Toronto to be their head coach should help), even that 50-goal prop can’t be fully discounted. I’d probably skip on 60 though – Ovechkin being ageless is one thing, but going right back to where he was in his early 20s would take a miracle.
One very interesting prop that I haven’t mentioned yet involves when Ovechkin will score his 850th career goal (or his 28th of the season). This is similar to the Connor Bedard first NHL goal prop I mentioned earlier this week, except a lot trickier to land. You have to have an idea of the pace you expect Ovechkin to score at, his health has to line up, and the team has to be in the right spot of the schedule.
Right now, the front-runner is the Montreal Canadiens (+800), who Washington face in Games 4, 48, and 53. We can probably throw out Ovechkin scoring 28 goals in 4 games, so what we’re looking at are the final two games, which would put him on 48 or 43 goals paces – entirely reasonable, and two kicks at the can help. Florida sits at +1000 with key games of 49 and 56 (paces of 47 and 41), and St. Louis sits in third with games 43 and 44 (52 and 53 goal paces). This one is largely a novelty at this stage – if you want to make a more serious bet, it might be worth waiting 25-30 games to see where Ovechkin is sitting.
Alex Ovechkin currently has odds available for them to win the following awards:
- Hart Memorial Trophy (Tie for 25th-shortest at +10000)
- Rocket Richard Trophy (Tie for 11th-shortest at +3300)
There isn’t really a big market for Ovechkin in the awards races, but given where he stands in his career, being there at all is an accomplishment. Ovechkin doesn’t generate MVP votes the way he used to, but did finish 10th in voting in 2021/22, and if he has one more monster year and squeaks the Capitals into the playoffs, do not doubt that there will be some conversation about it. I still wouldn’t put money on it, but there’s room.
As for the Rocket Richard Trophy for the top goal scorer, it’s hard to feel confident that Ovechkin will keep up with likes of prime Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews, but it’s hard to fully discount him. We’ve figured his top-scoring days were over on multiple occasions, only for him to be sitting pretty with nine trophies, one as recent as 2020. I think this one is too far away to seriously consider, but depending on how the first few weeks go, it could be worth revisiting.