With pure strength and innate goal-scoring ability, Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin has electrified NHL arenas since his debut Oct. 5, 2005, and the 34-year-old looks far from slowing down.
On Saturday afternoon at the New Jersey Devils, the Russian became the eighth NHL player to score 700 career goals, and he did it in the second-fewest games (1,144). His 700th was also his 42nd tally of the season; he is nearing the pace that would let him hit the 60-goal mark for the second time in his 15-year NHL career.
During Ovechkin’s pursuit of 700 goals, he had a span of three games when he scored eight times, including back-to-back hat tricks, that was part of a stretch of seven games in which he had 14 goals.
This season, Ovechkin has climbed from 14th to eighth on the NHL’s career goal list. In January alone, he passed four Hall of Famers: Teemu Selanne (684) on Jan. 13, Mario Lemieux (690) on Jan. 18, Steve Yzerman (692) on Jan. 29 and Mark Messier (694) on Jan. 31. Up next: Mike Gartner at 708.
Don’t expect anyone else to join the 700 club any time soon: The active player with the next-most goals is the San Jose Sharks’ Patrick Marleau, who has 561 but is 40 years old.
Ovechkin’s quest for 700 goals was followed closely not only by his own team but across the hockey world. With a gleeful joy that erupts after each tally, the future Hall of Famer continues to hit milestone after milestone. Wayne Gretzky’s record of 894 goals, once considered unbreakable, is now not so far-fetched.
The Great Eight is the eighth to 700
Career: 1979 - 1999
Games played: 1,487
Career: 1946 - 1980
Games played: 1,767
Career: 1990 - 2018
Games played: 1,733
Career: 1986 - 2006
Games played: 1,269
Career: 1971 - 1989
Games played: 1,348
Career: 1963 - 1981
Games played: 1,282
Career: 1979 - 1998
Games played: 1,432
Goals: 700 (still active)
Games played: 1,144
Ovechkin is the eighth 700-goal scorer in NHL history. He joins Mike Gartner (708), Phil Esposito (717), Marcel Dionne (731), Brett Hull (741), Jaromir Jagr (766), Gordie Howe (801) and Wayne Gretzky (894). Jagr was the previous player to hit 700, in March 2014 at age 42.
Ovechkin’s production after 30 has been impressive: He has scored 50 goals in a season twice since 2015-16 and fell just short in 2017-18 with 49. Gretzky (886 games) and Hull (1,157) were the only other players to join the 700-goal club in fewer than 1,200 games.
Ovechkin is 195 goals away from breaking Gretzky’s record. While that remains an enormous gap, Ovechkin’s teammates and peers in the hockey community are starting to believe it’s possible.
Can he keep up the pace?
Ovechkin is the second-youngest player to score 700 goals, behind Gretzky, who reached the milestone at 29. While Gretzky’s scoring declined in the last decade of his career — he had 57 goals in his final three seasons combined before retiring at 38 — Ovechkin’s has remained strong well into his 30s. To break Gretzky’s record, he could look to Teemu Selanne for inspiration: Selanne scored 232 goals in his final nine seasons before retiring at 43. Selanne scored 40 goals in 2005-06 at 35 and 48 goals the following season. But since 1980, just three other players 35 or older have scored 40 or more goals in a season: Mark Messier with 47 at age 35 in 1995-96, Brendan Shanahan with 40 at age 37 in 2005-06 and Daniel Alfredsson with 40 at age 35 in 2007-08.
Ovechkin, century mark by century mark
Ovechkin went from 600 to 700 goals in 154 games, the fewest it has taken him to hit a century mark since he went from 100 to 200 in 129 games. He scored 163 goals in his first three seasons combined; remarkably, he has 142 goals in his past three seasons combined — and he still has 21 games to go in the third.
A milestone a minute
Joining the 700-goal club puts Ovechkin in elite company, but as he has gotten older, he seems to regularly reach new landmarks. Here are just a few memorable moments.
It had to start somewhere
In his own words, "It's my first game in the NHL, we win and I score two goals. It's a nice start"
A Capital achievement
At 22 years old, Ovechkin breaks a franchise record set four years before he born with his 61st goal of the season.
Isn't it grand?
Ovechkin had 999 career points when the game began. Thirty-five seconds later, he had 1,000.
Design and development by Brianna Schroer. Graphics by Armand Emamdjomeh. Top photo by Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post. Data from hockey-reference.com.