Washington Capitals' Ovechkin Is Good. But Will He Be Great?

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By Fred Bowen
Thursday, February 26, 2009

This hockey season I have been wondering: How good is Alexander Ovechkin going to be?

The Washington Capitals' star left winger leads the National Hockey League (NHL) in scoring with 44 goals. And he seems to do something incredible every game.

One way to get some idea of how good Ovechkin may become is to check out some of the great players in NHL history whose scoring statistics were similar to Ovechkin's.

This season Ovechkin, 23, became the fifth player in NHL history to score 200 or more goals in his first 300 games. The other players who accomplished that amazing feat are Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Mike Bossy and Brett Hull.

That's a high-powered, Hall of Fame list. But it's hard to compare Ovechkin to the Great Gretzky or Super Mario because Gretzky and Lemieux played center. Gretzky and Lemieux scored plenty of goals, but they also set up their teammates with pinpoint passes.

Ovechkin plays wing. Although he gets some assists, his main job is to score goals. So let's take a look at the careers of the two hard-shooting, high-scoring wings on the list, Bossy and Hull. They are more like Ovechkin.

Bossy was an amazingly consistent scorer for the New York Islanders from 1977 to 1987 who scored 50 or more goals in each of his first nine seasons.

The good news for Ovechkin and Capitals fans is that Bossy helped the Islanders win four consecutive Stanley Cup championships from 1980 to 1983. The bad news is that Bossy's career was cut short by a back injury. Bossy was only 30 years old when he retired after the 1986-87 season.

Brett Hull, who played from 1986 to 2006, was the son of legendary hockey great Bobby Hull. The father was called "the Golden Jet" because of his speed and blond hair. The son was called "the Golden Brett."

Both Hulls could score. Brett Hull put up incredible statistics early in his career, scoring 86 goals for the St. Louis Blues during the 1990-91 season as well as 70 or more goals in two other seasons. He scored 741 goals during his career, the third-highest total in NHL history.

Despite all the goals, Hull bounced around a bit, playing for five teams during his 20-year career. There's little chance Ovechkin will leave Washington. Last year, he signed a 13-year contract that should keep him with the Caps for a long time.

It's clear that Ovechkin's scoring skills, so far, have put him in elite company. If he stays healthy and the Capitals keep their other young stars (forwards Alexander Semin, Nicklas Backstrom and defenseman Mike Green), Ovechkin may match and even surpass Bossy and Hull in goals -- and Stanley Cup championships.

Fred Bowen writes KidsPost's sports opinion column and is an author of sports novels for kids.


© 2009 The Washington Post Company

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