Can Alex Ovechkin top Wayne Gretzky's NHL record of 894 goals?

From ESPN - March 12, 2018

Alex Ovechkin scored goal No. 600 against the Jets, and now sets his sights on Jari Kurri (601), Dino Ciccarelli (608) and Bobby Hull (610) on the all-time list. But there's a name a bit higher on the list that piques our interest a bit more: Wayne Gretzky, who holds the career goal-scoring record, with 894 tallies.

Will Ovechkin top the Great One before he hangs up his skates? Our experts weigh in:

Greg Wyshynski, senior writer: When I was a younger hockey fan, Wayne Gretzky's record of 894 goals always felt like a record that was formidable but not unbreakable.

This was mainly because I figured the NHL would find a way to overcorrect for improved defensive systems with, like, soccer-sized nets that would create more asterisks in the record book than the shift key. But it was also because I had seen players who would have legitimately threatened Gretzky's mark were it not for external forces: Mario Lemieux's tragically truncated career and Jaromir Jagr losing games to both labor stoppages and his KHL sabbatical.

Alex Ovechkin is one such player. And if those external forces do not screw it up, he's going to break Wayne Gretzky's record.

If he scores 50 goals this season, he will be at 608. Let's assume he plays the last three seasons of his current contract and then five more NHL seasons after that on a new one. Let's also assume an average of 36 goals per season in that span; this would put him at 896. This is not that outlandish at all when you consider he has been below 36 goals in a season only twice in his NHL career during a full season. Meanwhile, he has popped 50 goals in three of the past four seasons -- and probably will again this season.

Scoring more than 30 goals into your twilight years is not unheard of, at least for durable players. Martin St. Louis (39) and Teemu Selanne (40) did it. Selanne, Jagr (43), Daniel Alfredsson (39), Shane Doan (39) and Brendan Shanahan (38) all had 27 goals or better later in their careers.

But again, we come back to those external forces. Ovechkin has shown a startling durability during his career, to the point where it almost has become a meme: "Russian Machine Never Break!" Will that machine be as fine-tuned when he's 37? And as Lemieux will tell you, there's no accounting for unforeseen health calamities.

The other external forces are the ones Jagr faced. The NHL and the NHL Players' Association seem to be headed to something less than collective bargaining Armageddon in a few years, but there never has been a CBA negotiation in the past 30 years without a work stoppage. Then there's the KHL question: There has been speculation for years, mostly from the KHL side, that Ovechkin would like to finish his playing days in Russia. Would he leave before the pursuit of Gretzky's record is complete?

Barring those external forces, Ovechkin can break Gretzky's record. But do not take it from me.

"If he can sustain his pace, there's no question in my mind that he has the ability and the talent and the work ethic to be able to do it. And if he does it, I will be the first guy there to shake his hand. If there is one guy out there that can do it, there's no question it's him," Wayne Gretzky told in 2016.

It wo not be easy. "The first 500 are the easy ones," Gretzky said. "It's the next 500, when you are getting a little bit older and your body is a little bit worn down -- the travel and physical part of the game catches up to you."

Emily Kaplan, national reporter: If you had asked me this summer, I likely would have said no way. Ovechkin's 33 goals in 2016-17 were his fewest in a non-lockout season since 2010-11, and his ice time was shaved to a career-low average of 18:22 to preserve him for the playoffs. By the end of the Pittsburgh series, Barry Trotz had moved Ovechkin to the third line, and the winger finished the playoffs with five goals and three assists in 13 games as he battled knee and hamstring injuries. "I think [Ovechkin is] going to have to think of ways he can evolve into a player that still has a major impact on the game," GM Brian MacLellan told reporters in May, publicly challenging his star. It felt like all signs pointed to regression. Ovechkin's dominance in the NHL felt tenuous at best.


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