Alex Ovechkin left no doubt about his 700th career goal in the NHL when he scored it on Saturday afternoon, and good for him.
It came from the opposite face-off circle from where No. 8 does most of his damage for the Washington Capitals power play, but it was still an Ovie one-time rocket that he roofed past New Jersey goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood. It’s really the way any milestone NHL goal should be for a legendary NHLer like Ovechkin.
It was one of many things to celebrate about the NHL on a jam-packed Saturday in February and it also reminded everybody the 34-year-old Capitals star is the premier goal-scorer and game-breaker of his generation. With 42 goals already on his ledger for this season while on a pace for 57 goals, it’s also clear the Russian scoring machine isn’t all that close to slowing down either.
He may pass by Mike Gartner (708 goals) on the all-time list as early as this season, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Wayne Gretzky’s NHL-record 894 career goals could be attainable for Ovie as well. He’d have to play until he was 40 years old and continue to average 40 goals per season, but Ovechkin has put himself in position to at least have a shot at the Great One.
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It all begs the question as to which player will be next to hit the 700 goals milestone in the NHL.
Steve Stamkos may get there with 422 career goals at 30 years old with the Tampa Bay Lightning, but he’s probably got the best chance of any NHL player over the age of 25 years old. He’s on pace for 39 goals this season and would need to stay on that pace until he was 37 years old to reach that mark, a possibility given his work ethic, his status in Tampa Bay, and an offensive game that’s centered around his one-timer on the power play.
But the guy with perhaps the best shot to get there in the future?
It’s got to be 23-year-old Bruins superstar David Pastrnak, who leads the NHL with 45 goals after scoring two more in Saturday night’s 9-3 loss to the Canucks, and is on pace for 60 goals and 115 points in a monster season for the Black and Gold.
Pastrnak is going to finish this season close to 200 career goals at just 23 years old, and arguably has 15 good seasons in front of him based on dazzling offensive skills once again prominently reliant on a deadly one-timer from the face-off dot.
All Pastrnak has to do is average 35 goals per season until he’s 38 years old to reach the 700-goal milestone at 38 years old, and he’ll get close to 800 career goals if he can average 40 goals per season over the next decade-and-a-half. Obviously, it’s dependent on Pastrnak remaining healthy and productive for a long, long time, but the Bruins right winger is in a position to accomplish some of these things after entering the NHL as its youngest player during his 2014-15 NHL rookie season.
Certainly, Pastrnak’s coach thinks he can get there, and the winger should be in line for massive numbers as long as he’s part of the Perfection Line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.
“I’m going to say Pasta because I love the kid, and he’s young, and he’s scoring,” said Bruce Cassidy, when asked who might be the next 700-goal guy in the NHL. “I think it’s always about health, it’s always [about] are you surrounded by good players to help you? I mean, if you’re the only guy out there on your team, I think it would be hard every night for 82 games to try to push that. [Pastrnak] has got good support. Yeah, I think he’s one of those guys. I haven’t looked close enough to [Steven] Stamkos’ age to see what – because you always have to project, but in terms of the younger guys, Laine could be that guy because he has such a terrific shot; you tend not to lose that. He’s always going to be on the power play. That’s what’s helped Ovi [Alex Ovechkin] obviously to be able to maintain his sort of marks on the power play.
“But I think a lot of it has to do with health. I would have to think about that one a little bit more about which guys probably after two, three years. Is [Nikita] Kucherov in that mix? Does he score enough, or does he pass too much? Brayden Point scores a lot of goals, but he’s also a disher at times. I think it does take a certain amount of shot-first mentality if you’re going to challenge that many. Auston
Matthews probably has to be in that conversation as well, the way he shoots the puck. There are guys out there, [but] it’s probably just a little early to predict with those younger guys.”
Similar to Pastrnak, the 22-year-old Matthews would need to average 35 goals per season for the next 15 years to get to the 700-goal mark. That’s a doable thing for a former No. 1 overall pick and a player that’s on pace for 56 goals of his own this season for the Maple Leafs. The same with 24-year-old Leon Draisaitl, who will finish with around 170 career goals after this season and would need to average 35 goals per season until he was 39 years old to reach that mark as well.
Put all of it together and it feels like Pastrnak and Matthews are the two most likely candidates to be the next 700-goal guys in the league, so let’s put this article in a time capsule and release it 15 years from now to how it all actually played out.