But he has looked ageless in his last season and a half. In both last season and the current campaign he is averaging just over 0.6 goals a gameright at his career average. He played in 77 of the Capitals’ 82 regular-season games last season and hasn’t missed a game so far this season even as the Capitals (19-13-4) have struggled.
Amazingly, Ovechkin is averaging more than 20 minutes of ice time per game, among the top 20 forwards in the league. Only one — Mats Zuccarello of the Minnesota Wild — is older than 30.
Let’s say Ovechkin roughly maintains the 0.6 rate this season and does not get hurt: He could well pick up 30 more goals. If he slips to, say, 0.5 next season, that’s still 40 more goals. Then he would be within 20 or so of Gretzky and ready to break the record in the 2024-25 season.
Earlier this season, Gretzky acknowledged that it was a question of when, not if, Ovechkin would surpass his record. Given that in 2021 Ovechkin signed a five-year, $47.5 million contract that will take him through 2025-26, you would have to agree.
Don’t weep for Gretzky though. His assist record of 1,963 is more than 700 ahead of second place (Ron Francis, now the Seattle general manager) and more than 1,000 ahead of Crosby, who has 916 assists. Ovechkin, whose primary talent is scoring goals, has 649 assists, and there are a handful of active players ahead of him.
Still, with the latest milestone, Ovechkin continues to ascend into the upper reaches of hockey’s pantheon and it does not look like he is planning to stop any time soon.