Alex Ovechkin entered Saturday’s game two goals shy of joining Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe, Jaromir Jagr, Brett Hull, Marcel Dionne, Phil Esposito and Mike Gartner as the only players to score 700 goals in the NHL. Ovechkin needed 1,137 games to reach 698 goals; only Gretzky (886) and Hull (1,157) got to 700 in fewer than 1,200 games. Ovechkin also will be the second-youngest, behind only Gretzky (29), to reach the landmark total.
We usually see a new member of the 700 club every four to seven years — it has been nearly six since Jagr got No. 700, and before him there was an 11-year drought — but it could be a long time before we see another. The next active player on the career goals list is Patrick Marleau, who has 561 but is 40 years old, and the league’s top young scorers haven’t had anything close to the start Ovechkin had to his career.
|Date of 700th goal||Skater||Age|
|Mar. 1, 2014||Jaromir Jagr||42|
|Feb. 10, 2003||Brett Hull||38|
|Dec. 14, 1997||Mike Gartner||38|
|Jan. 3, 1991||Wayne Gretzky||29|
|Oct. 31, 1987||Marcel Dionne||36|
|Feb. 2, 1980||Phil Esposito||37|
|Dec. 4, 1968||Gordie Howe||40|
The Great 8 tallied 163 goals during his first three seasons in the NHL, the most among active players. Steven Stamkos, with 1919 in his first three seasons, is second. The rest of the league’s scoring leaders pale in comparison. In his sixth season, David Pastrnak, the 23-year-old contender for the Rocket Richard trophy, awarded to the league’s top goal scorer, has 170 goals, including at least 34 in each of the past four seasons. Auston Matthews, who doesn’t turn 23 until September, has 150 goals, tallying at least 34 in each of his four seasons. MVP candidate Nathan MacKinnon, 24, has flourished over the past three seasons and now has 185 career goals in his seventh season. Ovechkin, by comparison, had 339 goals by the end of 2011-12, his seventh year in the league.
Connor McDavid, at 23 a former MVP and two-time points leader, had 41 goals each of the past two seasons and recently secured his fourth straight season with at least 30 goals, which added up to 158 over less than five seasons entering Saturday. Patrik Laine, the No. 2 pick in the 2016 draft, started off strong with 36 goals as a rookie and 44 in his sophomore season, but his next season saw a dip to 30. His hat trick Saturday gave him 23 in his fourth season for 133 career goals. In other words, the NHL’s best and brightest are all far off the pace to join the 700-goal club.
To help determine the likelihood a player could join the 700-goal club, we are going to rely on the favorite toy, a formula created by Bill James that calculates the probability a player achieves a career statistical goal. It uses a three-year weighted average to determine a player’s future production. By this method, Stamkos, a two-time Rocket Richard winner who turned 30 on Friday, has the best chance of reaching the 700-goal mark (43 percent), followed by Pastrnak (40 percent), Matthews (37 percent) and MacKinnon (32 percent). McDavid, arguably the best player in the NHL, has a 28 percent chance. Those are decent odds, but they are still low compared with Ovechkin at the same age. Ovechkin, at 23, finished the 2008-09 campaign with a weighted three-year average of 57 goals and had 219 career goals, which gave him a 76 percent chance of reaching the 700-goal plateau. He was 50/50 to make the 700-goal club after his third season in the NHL.
The other player in his 30s with a decent chance of joining the 700-goal club is Patrick Kane (20 percent). Kane, unlike Stamkos, has never dominated the goals category, but he has scored 21 or more in each of his 13 seasons, giving him 381 at 31 years old. His consistency could be rewarded if he manages to play another eight or nine years. But it’s still a long shot. Just two players have tallied 300 or more goals after turning 32: Howe and John Bucyk.