Photo: Nick Wass/AP
Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin turns 38 on Sunday and will be playing his 19th NHL season in 2023-24. Even at an advanced age (in hockey terms), it would be no surprise if he scores a high number of goals or even competes for the Rocket Richard Trophy during the 2023-24 season. Ovechkin continues to go where no man has gone before – when it comes to scoring goals.
This is both in scoring goals at a relatively advanced age and reaching goal-scoring milestones consistently. His productivity is even more amazing when you consider that only 11 players from his birth year, 1985, played in the NHL last season and it appears that just seven players from his birth year will return to the NHL for the 2023-24 season.
Totals at Advanced Age
Last season Ovechkin scored 42 goals, which was tied for ninth place with three other players. 19 players in all scored 40 goals or more. However, Ovechkin was the only player among those 19 who was over 30 years of age. The next oldest player who scored more than 40 goals was Mark Schiefele at age 29.
Among players aged 37 and older, Ovechkin led the way with 42 goals last season. The next highest goal scorer at age 37 and older was Joe Pavelski, age 38, who scored 28, followed by Patrice Bergeron, age 37, who retired after the 2022-23 season. Only one other player aged 37 or older topped the 20-goal threshold, Zach Parise, who scored 21 goals and, as of this writing, has still not signed a contract for 2023-24 and will not be reporting to an NHL training camp this fall.
Nobody would be too surprised if Ovechkin scores 40 or more goals this coming season. But, given his age, scoring 40 goals would be a rare accomplishment, indeed. As it turns out, only two players aged 37 and older have topped the 40-goal threshold, Ovechkin himself last season, with 42, and Gordie Howe who scored 44 goals at age 40.
There have been only nine seasons where a player aged 35 or older has topped the 40-goal threshold. This was accomplished by Johnny Bucyk two times, Teemu Selanne two times, Ovechkin himself twice, and once by Gordie Howe, Phil Esposito, and Brendan Shanahan. Bucyk’s 51 goals that he scored in 1970-71 at the age of 35 are the most in a season by a player 35 years of age or older. Even exceeding the 35-goal threshold is difficult for players 35 and older, as it’s been done just 24 times, twice by Ovechkin himself.
Ovechkin’s continued goal-scoring accomplishments are even more remarkable, considering that just six other players born during the same birth year as him, 1985, remain in the NHL. [This assumes that Paul Stastny, Jaroslav Halak, and Brian Elliott who are still unrestricted free agents do not sign contracts for the coming season.]
Quest to Top All-Time Record
Ovechkin needs to score more than 73 goals over the next two seasons to top Wayne Gretzky’s career total of 894. As far as precedent goes, three players have scored more than 73 goals from age 38 through age 40. Those players were Gordie Howe, who scored 108 goals, Johnny Bucyk who scored 96 goals, and Teemu Selanne who scored 85 goals.
In a comparison of recent age productivity, Ovechkin ranks second in goals scored between the ages of 35-37, scoring 116 goals during the three years between 2020-21 and 2022-23. Johnny Bucyk scored 123 goals between the ages of 35 and 37. Ovechkin’s three-year total was depressed during 2020-21, the season that was shorter than normal due to the pandemic.
When comparing the goal scoring of Bucyk and Ovechkin between the ages of 34-37, Ovechkin scored 164 while Bucyk scored 154. If Ovechkin can stay close to Bucyk’s goal-scoring productivity during his age 38 through 40 seasons, he will break Gretzky’s goal-scoring record.
Additional Goal Milestones
Below is a list of where Ovechkin stands in goal-scoring categories.
- Ovechkin ranks second in career goals with 822, only behind Wayne Gretzky (894)
- Ovechkin’s 822 goals are the most in Capitals franchise history, the most goals with a single franchise, and the most scored by a Russian in NHL history.
- Ovechkin scored 299 power-play goals during his career which ranks first on the All-Time List. Dave Andreychuk ranks second with 274.
- Ovechkin scored 518 even-strength goals during his career which ranks fourth on the All-Time List. Ahead of him are Wayne Gretzky (617), Gordie Howe (566), and Jaromir Jagr (538).
- Ovechkin scored 124 game-winning goals which ranks second to Jaromir Jagr with 135.
- Ovechkin scored 404 goals at home which ranks fourth on the All-Time List. Ahead of him are Wayne Gretzky (492), Gordie Howe (449), and Jaromir Jagr (411).
- Ovechkin scored 418 goals on the road which ranks first All-Time. The next player is Wayne Gretzky who has 402.
Most Times Reaching Goal Scoring Threshold in Season
Below are the number of seasons where Ovechkin achieved elite goal-scoring totals.
- Ovechkin scored 40 goals in 2022-23, which was his 18th consecutive year of topping 20 goals, his 13th season of scoring at least 40 goals, and his 17th of scoring at least 30 goals.
- He has scored 20 goals in 18 seasons, which ranks sixth. If he scores at least 20 goals in 2023-24, he will have 19 seasons of accomplishing that feat which would move him into a tie for third with Jaromir Jagr, Brendan Shanahan, and Dave Andreychuk. The only players who have compiled more 20-goal seasons are Gordie Howe with 22 seasons and Ron Francis with 20 seasons.
- He has scored at least 25 goals seventeen times which is tied for third with Mike Gartner. Topping 25 during 2023-24 would tie him for second place with Jaromir Jagr. Gordie Howe holds the record for 25-goal seasons with 20.
- Ovechkin and Mike Gartner have the most seasons of scoring 30 goals or more, having done that seventeen times. The next highest is Jaromir Jagr who topped that threshold fifteen times.
- Ovechkin and Mike Gartner have the most seasons of scoring 35 goals or more, having done that fourteen times. The next highest are Wayne Gretzky and Marcel Dionne who had thirteen seasons with 35 or more goals.
- Ovechkin has scored 40 goals or more in thirteen seasons, which is the most in NHL history. Gretzky is next with twelve 40-goal seasons. Mario Lemieux and Marcel Dionne both scored 40 goals in ten seasons.
- While Ovechkin did not score 50 goals in 2022-23, he is tied with Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy for the most 50-goal seasons with nine such seasons.
Other Goal Rankings
Here are other goal-scoring rankings for Ovechkin:
- Ovechkin has 167 multi-goal games, including four games of scoring four or more goals, 26 games with three or more goals, and the remainder with two goals.
- Ovechkin has scored 124 game-winning goals, ranking second only to Jaromir Jagr who has 135.
- Ovechkin has scored 25 overtime goals which is the most in NHL history.
Statistics were obtained through Stat Head, Hockey Reference, Quant Hockey, and NHL
By Diane Doyle