Alex Ovechkin’s chase rating for 894 goals after the first season of the new decade

When Alex Ovechkin signed a five-year deal last summer to stay in Washington likely for the remainder of his National Hockey League career, part of the reason for his contract was the chance to catch Wayne Gretzky’s 894 career goals.

“Well, you never know,” Ovechkin said last summer. “I’ll do my best. That’s why I want to play five more years: for a chance to catch the great one, why not? If I’m going to be second, you know it’s a very good number too.”

And in the 2021-22 season, Ovechkin showed that he could still score at an elite rate, even at the age of 36. He topped Marcel Dion, Brett Hall and Jaroomer Jagger on the all-time goal list with his 50-goal campaign (which was good for a fourth in the league) and catapulted himself to third place all-time with 780 career goals and four years left. Knot.

But with four years left on his contract, and a maximum of 328 games left in the NHL, how likely is he to surpass Gretzky than he was a year ago?

Compared to this time last year, he is in better shape. And he’s given himself a chance to make things, relatively speaking, easy on himself throughout his career.

In order to hit 895 goals and become the top scorer in the NHL, he needed to average 33 goals per season over his entire five-year contract as of last summer. But with his 50-goal season, he bought himself plenty of wiggle room.

At 780 goals, Ovechkin needs 115 goals to pass Gretsky. Over four seasons, he averaged 28.75 goals per season — a mark Ovechkin has achieved in all but one of his 17 NHL seasons. The only flaw in the pandemic season’s 45 games came in 2021, when he scored 24 goals.

With a strong outing in the first year of his deal, he put himself in a position where, if he scored 50 goals again, or even came close to the number, the conversation would eventually turn to “when” Gretzky would pass, not “if.”

But even Ovechkin isn’t immune to Father Time, as the odds of the 37-year-old Russian striker continuing to score 50 goals per season as he approaches his 40s remain unlikely. In fact, in order for Ovechkin to surpass Gretsky, he would need to score at an unheard-of rate for his age.

Only two players in NHL history (John Busick and Brendan Shanahan) have scored 40 or more goals in their 37-year-old seasons. For comparison, Gretzky scored 23 goals and Jordi Howe scored 29 goals in their 37 seasons – although Howe scored 44 goals when he was 40..

And while Ovechkin is good enough to cover it up, he’s still not the player he was in his twenties.

In Ovechkin’s 17 National Hockey League seasons, he averaged 4.76 shots per game, in the hockey reference. He hasn’t gotten that far since the 2015-16 season.

Of the 10 seasons in which Ovechkin scored his highest total shots per night, all 10 came when he was 30 years old or younger. His six seasons from the age of 31 onwards are seventh lowest in his career in terms of shots per game, with the only exception being his 26-year-old season in 2011-12 when the team played “Hunter Hockey”, a more defensive style of the game.

However, Ovechkin scored last season after 15% of his shots, the third best mark of his career. Ironically, three of his most prolific goal-scoring seasons have come in the past four years. For any average player of this age, that would be a sign that withdrawal is imminent. Of course, Ovechkin is not an ordinary player.

Even without Ovechkin’s shots before, and even if his chances of scoring decline as he gets older, 115 goals is certainly an achievable feat for the top scorer of this generation.

In addition, he must join the elite company on the way to Gretsky.

With a season of 30 goals in 2022-23, he tied with Mike Gartner in the 30 most goal seasons in National Hockey League history. If Ovechkin scored 40 goals, he would maintain this feat in more than 40 goals in league history. If Ovechkin scores 50, he will be the only player in NHL history to score 50-goal seasons.

Ovechkin is also just 20 goals away from his 800 all-time goals, 21 goals from tying Jordi Howe’s 801 total and 22 goals from moving into possession of the second-highest scorers of all time. If Ovechkin keeps up his pace from last season, there’s a chance he’ll get him second before the season ends.

But until then, the eyes of the hockey world will be on 894 and the hunt for Gretsky.

The numbers you need to know now are 28.75the average he needs in the last four years of his deal, and 115, the total number he needs to pass Gretsky. It’s a chase that will take over the sports world, and year two of his new contract is just as pivotal as year one in terms of giving him a better chance of beating Gretzky.

If Ovechkin scores 45, he will be at 825 by the end of the 2022-23 season. This would have left him with just 70 goals to score for Gretsky’s pass, and only 23.33 goals per season on average. As he gets older, making it easier on himself in the future by recording in the present is crucial.

No matter what ways it’s been split, though, compared to this time last year, and perhaps every summer before this one, catching a Gretsky seems more possible than ever.

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