What must Alex Ovechkin do to pass Wayne Gretzky in all-time goal?

Score 93 more times.

That’s it that’s all.

For several years we have been following the possibility that Alex Ovechkin could catch and pass Wayne Gretzky as the NHL career goalscoring record holder. In 2017-18, when Ovechkin scored the 600th of his career, we noted that he would need to average 36.875 goals per season until the age of 40 to eclipse the 894 by one point. by Gretzky.

Since then, Ovechkin has had seasons with 51, 48, 24 (in 45 games) and 50 goals. This season, the 37-year-old has scored 22 times in 36 games. Surprisingly, even so late in his career, Ovechkin far exceeds the pace required before and, in fact, continues to convert at a level consistent with the rest of his career. He might be able to overtake Gretzky before his 40-year-old season even begins.

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That was always the key to this hunt: Ovechkin was going to have to catch Gretzky at the end of his career. Gretzky, who turned 33 midway through the 1993-94 season, scored just 91 goals in his last six NHL seasons. Ovechkin, so far, has scored 144 goals after turning 34 and could have a chance to score 50 again this season.

At this point, it seems almost guaranteed that Ovechkin will topple one of Gretzky’s great records, health permitting. But what exactly is the path to 895 from here?

The Capitals have 46 games left to play this season and if we place him « cautiously » for another 18 goals, he would finish 2022-23 with 820 career goals. From there, if we impose the same 36-goal average pace we thought he needed a few years ago for this final leg of the journey, Ovechkin would be just three goals off the record heading into the 2025-26 season.

This 2025-26 season also happens to be the last year of his current contract with the Washington Capitals. He would be 40 years old before getting started.

But, really, it might be more reasonable to expect Ovechkin to top that average now. Father time is unbeaten, so Ovechkin will likely slow down at some point, but he hasn’t scored less than 48 goals in a full season since 2016-17. He has 51 goals this season.

Regardless of how Ovechkin ends up in April when the 2023-24 season begins, he will be a 38-year-old player with three years remaining on his contract. Even with a sharp drop in production, he has a clearly workable path to Gretzky.

Here’s a look at how many goals Ovechkin is expected to score on average per season over the last three years of his contract if…





30 goals




40 goals




50 goals




55 goals




60 goals



6:33 p.m.

By Sportsnet statisticsthe most goals ever scored by an NHL player after reaching the age of 38 is Gordie Howe, who scored 177 more in athletic old age.

Five players have scored over 100 times after reaching the age of 38. Surprisingly, because he’s still scoring at such a pace over the past two years, Ovechkin doesn’t even have to be among the NHL’s most prolific 38-plus scorers. history of chasing Gretzky.



Gordie Howe


Teemu Selanne


John Bucyk


Jaromir Jagr


Marc Recchi


Of course, he could very well end up on this list anyway.

It’s likely that Ovechkin will eventually overtake Gretzky and then become the only player to score 900 times in his NHL career. It’s an amazing thing even to think about, considering how many extra NHL goals scored when Gretzky was in his prime.

There have been 12 seasons in Gretzky’s career where NHL teams have combined to average more than seven goals per game. Heck, one-year teams have combined more than eight per game. And while Ovechkin’s career has unfolded in a time when goalscoring numbers have emerged from the depths of the Dead Puck, the offense still pales in comparison to the high-flying 80s. Most years of Ovechkin’s career, the goals-per-game average has been below six.

NHL teams averaged 6.28 goals per game last season, the highest rate of Ovechkin’s career. Given this context, if we look at the Hockey Reference era-adjusted goal record, Ovechkin is already making room at the top:

All-time goalscoring record adjusted by Era, according to Hockey-Reference.com.

When we first broached the subject of Ovechkin tracking down this seemingly unreachable record a few years ago, the idea was almost unbelievable for the reasons mentioned above. How could anyone break this Gretzky’s record, given that overall goals are down from that time, goalie gear has expanded, and the team’s defense has become much more structured?

It was a crazy scenario, but now we’re within earshot of it.

So why not throw another wild scenario into the universe?

What if Ovechkin hits his stride this season and ends up with 51 goals? He would need a 64-goal season to overtake Gretzky following season… and who says he can’t do that, especially if the attack continues to increase?

That would leave him with two contract seasons remaining and plenty of time to create distance between him and Gretzky. Would back-to-back 50-goal seasons at ages 39 and 40 be out of the question?

If that were to happen – and, yes, it is far from the case – Ovechkin could actually be within 1,000 goals at the end of his current contract.

Just a little something to ponder as the Great 8 are still going strong and enter the home stretch of all-time goal pursuit.

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