Alex Ovechkin has already established himself as one of the best scorers in NHL history, but he is on the verge of yet another career milestone. With 475 career goals, Ovechkin stands just 25 goals away from joining the elite company of 500-goal scorers.
The only question is, when will he score No. 500?
Ovechkin scored 53 goals last season, the sixth time he has scored 50 or more goals in a single season. Nothing is guaranteed, but barring an injury or suspension that keeps him off the ice, it seems safe to assume he will get at least 25 this season considering he has never scored fewer than 32 in one year. It would take a decline the likes of which we haven't seen since Jim Carey for Ovechkin to fail to reach No. 500 over the next regular season.
To get a better idea of when it may happen, let's look at Ovechkin's past seasons. Below is a list of each of his previous NHL seasons, how many games it took to reach 25 goals, who the head coach was and Ovechkin's scoring rate per game over the course of the entire season:
2005-06, 39 games, Glen Hanlon, .642 goals per game
2006-07, 36 games, Glen Hanlon, .561 goals per game
2007-08, 36 games, Glen Hanlon/Brouse Boudreau, .793 goals per game
2008-09, 35 games, Bruce Boudreau, .709 goals per game
2009-10, 30 games, Bruce Boudreau, .694 goals per game
2010-11, 64 games, Bruce Boudreau, .405 goals per game
2011-12, 57 games, Bruce Boudreau/Dale Hunter, .487 goals per game
2012-13, 39 games, Adam Oates, .667 goals per game (lockout shortened season)
2013-14, 29 games, Adam Oates, .654 goals per game
2014-15, 45 games, Barry Trotz, .654 goals per game
The purpose of including who the coach was at the time is to provide context for each season and to perhaps explain why he scored at a certain rate in a certain year.
It seems unlikely that Ovechkin is going to score at a rate of over .700 again not only because that is an absurd pace, but also because it happened during offense-heavy years of Bruce Boudreau. Only twice in his career has Ovechkin scored at a rate of less than .500 goals per game. It happened in Boudreau's last full season with the team when he employed the trap and in the next season when Dale Hunter took over.
Those years are outliers and Ovechkin is unlikely to be used in the same way under Barry Trotz.
For his career, Ovechkin has scored at a rate of .625 goals per game. It has been more the past three seasons, but given that Ovechkin will be 30 and that Nicklas Backstrom's recovery could keep him out of the lineup at the start of the season, a slight decline in production from around .650 down to around .600 or .625 is very much possible especially considering this is right around his career average. At that rate, it would take Ovechkin 40 to 42 games to reach 25.
Since Ovechkin has not played in 82 games since the 2007-08 season, when counting out games on the Caps' schedule let's add in another game just to account for injury or a suspension. That brings us to mid-January.
Here are a list of games that fall within the likely range:
Caps at Rangers, Jan. 9
Senators at Caps, Jan. 10
Canucks at Caps, Jan. 14
Caps at Sabres, Jan. 16
Given how much Henrik Lundqvist, Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi seem to frustrate Ovechkin, the last three look like better bets for an Ovechkin goal.
Trying to project what a player like Ovechkin can do is often a futile exercise, fans of the Great 8 have learned to expect the unexpected. But if you wanted to make sure your calendar was clear for watching Ovechkin join the ranks of the 500-goal scorers, those would be the dates I would circle.
MORE CAPITALS: Can Kuznetsov adequately replace Backstrom?