Wayne Gretzky is the NHL’s all-time leading goal scorer, and it’s not particularly close. Gretzky finished his career with 894 goals. Only two other players – Gordie Howe (801) and Jaromir Jagr (766) broke even 750.
Alex Ovechkin, however, has a fighting chance to catch Gretzky. Ovechkin, 34, has scored 698 goals in his career.
Is it possible he could surpass The Great One in the record books?
“Yes, I think it’s insane that we’re even talking about it, first of all,” NBC Sports NHL analyst and three-time Stanley Cup champion Patrick Sharp said on The DA Show. “Wayne Gretzky, for me, I was born in ’81 and grew up in the ’80s, ’90s. Wayne Gretzky was like a joke to the game of hockey. Look at the numbers when you get a chance. Google it. Look at the hockey card of Wayne Gretzky. It looks almost made up, how dominant he was in our sport. Now we got a guy in the year 2020, a Russian forward that’s got a chance to chase him down for the all-time goal-scoring record.”
Ovechkin has scored 40+ goals 11 times in his career. If he records five more 40-goal seasons, he’ll have the record and then some.
“That’s a nice career for a lot of people,” Sharp said, referring to that hypothetical five-year stretch. “The way that Ovechkin has been scoring goals, his durability, the fact that he scores a lot on the power play from the same spot – he knows it’s going to go in there. Everybody on the ice knows they’re trying to pass it to Ovechkin. Everybody in the building knows it’s coming, and he still manages to score.”
The rules should continue to help Ovechkin in the coming years, too.
“You look at the way the game is being called now, it’s getting tougher and tougher to defend,” Sharp said. “You can’t swing your stick, you can’t cross check, you can’t hook and hold – all those things are lining up for Ovie to take a serious run at this thing. I’m excited to see what happens. . . . Alex Ovechkin has been an awesome ambassador for the National Hockey League.”
Still, scoring 196 goals is far from a sure thing. Ovechkin might need to play into his 40s to catch Gretzky.
Could he play that long?
“I would think so,” Sharp said. “You look at the length of his career, knock on wood, he hasn’t been injured a whole lot. He’s missed a few games here and there, but he’s a big body. That’s another thing, too. The game is trending towards these leaner, quicker, smaller-type players. Ovie is a big man. He handles himself well out there, so injuries haven’t been a problem at all. Let’s hope that continues.”
Sharp added that he loves Ovechkin’s passion for the game.
“I think it’s great,” he said. “I love watching it. I love his passion. That’s one thing that stands out. When he scores a goal, even at 700 goals he’s knocking on the door of, he still celebrates like it’s his first five goals in the league. That’s what’s fun to watch.”
Gretzky, by the way, is also the NHL's all-time leader in assists (1,963) and points (2,857 points). Ron Francis is second all-time in assists (1,249), while Jagr is second in points (1,921).