Buccigross: Does Ovechkin Have A Chance To Break Gretzky's Record?

John Buccigross

The Washington Capitals scored the final four goals of their game against the Bruins last night for their 11th straight win, setting a new franchise record. It's the longest win streak in the NHL since the Sharks won 11 straight during the 2007-08 season. Alex Ovechkin scored for Washington, giving him a goal in 8 of his last 11 games. Ovechkin is 24 years old and it raises the question: Does Alexander Ovechkin have a reasonable chance to break Wayne Gretzky’s all-time career goals record?

Let’s project Alexander Ovechkin finishes with 51 goals this season. This would give him 270 career goals at age 24 following this regular season. That means he would need 625 more goals to break Gretzky’s all time mark of 894.

With the physical way Ovechkin plays hockey one would think he has a high probability of getting injured at some point. This would mean missed time and possibly make him less of a player depending on the injury. Ovechkin’s off the ice penchant for fast fun could also curtail his production over time.

But, let’s hope for the best and assume Ovechkin escapes serious injury for his career and slowly adjusts as he gets older. Players who have booming shots age slower in terms of goal totals. So does playing on good teams.

We will attempt to project Ovechkin’s goal total over the next sixteen seasons through the age of 40 which is how long Brendan Shanahan (656 career goals) played. Brett Hull (741 goals) scored his last NHL goal at age 39. Wayne Gretzky (894) scored his last NHL goal at age 38. Phil Esposito (717) was 38. Steve Yzerman (692) was 40. So, 40 years old is a reasonable number.

Some of Ovechkin’s projected years might have unexplained lower goal totals in an attempt to gauge for some kind of injury, slump, or illness and, thus, lost games like we saw this year. Players who play like Ovechkin are not ironmen. I will put his age and a projected goal total and see what we end up with. I don’t really have a final total number in my mind. I’m just going to take it one year at a time starting with next season at age 25.

Age – Goal Total

25 - 71 (He’s got to have one monster year)

26 - 66

27- 60

28- 51

29- 55

30- 48 (Wayne Gretzky’s last 40 goal season-41 goals- was at age 30)

31- 52

32- 45

33- 55

34- 40 (Steve Yzerman’s had his last 30 goal year at age 34- 35 goals)

35- 37

36- 32

37- 40 (Phil Esposito and Brendan Shanahan both had 40-goal seasons at age 37)

38- 32 (Brett Hull had 37 goals at age 38)

39- 28

40- 27

I didn’t add as I went along and I'm actually curious what the goal total is. I think these season by season numbers are pretty reasonable as noted by some of the comparables. I do think Ovechkin will get a 70-goal season and I have that next year as all of this young talent keeps improving. Ovie just needs to keep shooting. OK, I will now add up my Ovechkin projected goal totals to see what we have for a goal total over the next sixteen seasons: 739 goals.

That, plus the 270 goals Ovechkin will have scored after this year, easily breaks Gretzky’s mark by 115 goals and would give Ovechkin 1,009 career goals. This means we could even subtract seven goals from each of these projected sixteen seasons above and Ovechkin still has 897 goals at age 40.

Taking seven goals a season off the above projected totals means Ovechkin could end up having no career 70 goal seasons, only one more 60 goal season, no more 50-goal seasons after the age of 27, and he still can break Gretzky’s all-time goal mark.

This will take a lot of health, a lot of hockey love, and a lot of luck. But, it’s not farfetched.