Alex Ovechkin isn’t participating in the NHL’s All-Star Weekend, but he still was a topic of discussion during the festivities.

The 34-year-old Russian ended the first half of the season on a tear, scoring eight goals in the Capitals’ final three games before the break, including consecutive hat tricks that left him tied with Steve Yzerman for ninth on the NHL’s all-time goals list at 692.

It was the third time Ovechkin had scored hat tricks in back-to-back games. He joined Wayne Gretzky (three times) and Joe Malone (four times) as the only players to score hat tricks in consecutive games more than twice.

Ovechkin’s recent hot streak further illuminated what has been on the minds of many of his observers for most of his career: Will he break Gretzky’s all-time goals record?

For “The Great One,” it’s quite realistic that “The Great Eight” breaks what was once thought to be an insurmountable record. Ovechkin trails Gretzky by 202 goals.

“I’m a big believer that records are made to be broken,” Gretzky told NHL.com on Friday. “What I accomplished, I’m very proud of. It’s hard to do what I did, and it’s really hard to do what he’s doing now. But there’s no question in my mind that he has a real legitimate chance of doing it. The two things that you need; you’ve got to stay healthy, and he’s proven that over his career. He plays hard, and he stays healthy. And secondly, you’ve got to be on a good team — and he plays on a good team.”

If Ovechkin happens to break Gretzky’s mark, the Hall of Famer wants to see it in person.

“I think it would be wonderful for the game,” Gretzky said. “Anything that’s positive is always good for the game. I said jokingly to Sergey [Kocharov, the Capitals’ vice president of communications] … I said I hope [Capitals owner Ted Leonsis] realizes that when I was chasing Gordie’s record, Gordie and Colleen got to fly on the team plane. I hope I get invited to fly on the team plane because I would love to be at the game.”

Gordie, of course, refers to the legendary Gordie Howe, whose 801 goals stood as the NHL record for 14 years until Gretzky claimed the title of the NHL’s most prolific goal scorer in 1994.

Ovechkin has 692 goals in 1,133 career games, a clip of one goal scored in 61.1 percent of his games. He’s averaging about 50 goals per 82-game season, which puts him on pace to surpass Gretzky’s record during the 2023-24 season. Ovechkin will be 38 then, the same age Gretzky was when he scored his final goal in 1999.

Ovechkin needs two goals to tie Mark Messier for eighth on the all-time list (694) and 16 to tie former Capitals star Mike Gartner (708) for seventh. He is tied with Toronto’s Auston Matthews for second in the NHL with 34 goals this season, trailing only Boston’s David Pastrnak, who has 37. Another 16 goals would not only tie Ovechkin with Gartner on the all-time list, it would secure Washington’s captain his ninth 50-goal season, tying him with Gretzky and Mike Bossy for the most in league history.

Read more from the D.C. Sports Bog: