Elite scoring milestones are on Alex Ovechkin's mind

Not every player is as humble as Jarome Iginla.

Iginla scored his first NHL regular-season goal with the Calgary Flames on Oct. 5, 1996. He had previously scored in the playoffs for the Flames on April 23, 1996, and even with his first official goal in the books, he never imagined one day he would register No. 600.

The future Hall of Famer accomplished that feat on Monday as a member of the Colorado Avalanche and described it as "a little bit surreal."

Even though Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin, 30, is four goals shy of 500 for his career, he's already thinking about 600, and even 700.

"Yeah, congrats to Jarome, it's a huge number," Ovechkin said. "I hope I'm going to get 600 one day, or maybe 700, you never know."

What's even more impressive about Ovechkin's upcoming milestone is the fact that he's currently two games shy of 800 in his career. When he reaches 500 goals, he will become the fifth-fastest player in history to achieve that milestone, behind only Wayne Gretzky (575 games), Mario Lemieux (605), Mike Bossy (647) and Brett Hull (693).

This season, Ovechkin has 21 goals, 13 assists and a plus-16 in 38 games.

"He's playing very well for us," said Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby. "He's contributing, obviously, as a lot of guys on our team are, and when he wants to go, you can't stop him. He's the most powerful guy in the league and he's definitely an asset to have on our team."

Since the start of his career, in 2005-06, Ovechkin has 147 more goals and 47 more points than any other player in the league. For all his success, however, he has never won a Stanley Cup.

That could change this season.

In his second season behind the Capitals bench, coach Barry Trotz has the entire team buying into his system, including Ovechkin.

"Just a few years ago, he was purely a goal scorer," said one former Eastern Conference coach of Ovechkin. "Over the past two years, he has continued to be a dynamic offensive force, but his overall game is far more complete. He plays not to just score now, but to have any impact possible on helping his team win. It has been an inspiring transformation."

In addition to his 496 career goals, Ovechkin enters Thursday's game against the New York Islanders with 183 power-play goals, 929 points, 83 game-winning goals, 15 overtime goals and 102 multigoal games.

So how does he think he can reach 700 goals?

"You just have to stay on the same page all the time," Ovechkin said. "Those are big numbers, obviously, and not many people do that, especially right now in this league. It would be nice to be on [that list]."

A total of 43 players in history have scored 500 goals, while 19 players have scored 600 and seven have scored 700. Then there's the ultra-elite, Gretzky and Gordie Howe, who scored 894 and 801, respectively, the only two over 800.

Current players and coaches around the league respect Ovechkin's success and consider him one of the best in the world.

"Ovi, in my mind, has always been a great player and he's still a great player," said Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien. "What I see from the outside is how he's really bought into the team concept where he's been a real good leader. He's doing things we maybe didn't see him do earlier in his career, and Barry has done a great job of grabbing all those guys and turning them into a real team, and it shows.

"I'd probably label them as one of the best, if not the best, team in the league right now."

Like most opposing players, veteran New York Rangers defenseman Keith Yandle understands how Ovechkin's skills can dictate a game and is impressed by his success.

"To almost be at 500 goals, and to be as young as he is, it's amazing," Yandle said. "He's a guy when you're playing against him, you've got to know where he is at all times on the ice, whether it's a power play or 5-on-5.

"He's a threat to score, so it's one of those things when you have a guy of that talent, and can score goals as easily as he can, you have to pay extra attention."

Yandle also believes Ovechkin can score 700 goals.

"I think so. Yeah, why not? Just hopefully they don't come against us," Yandle said. "It's good for him to have goals for himself, and I definitely don't see that being a stretch or anything. You can definitely see him getting it."

When asked what his secret is to scoring goals, Ovechkin simply said with a smile: "Shoot the puck -- that's all."

He's done that 4,022 times so far in his career, and it has put him on the threshold of a big milestone, with many more goals surely to come.