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NHL all-time goals leaders: Can Ovechkin top Gretzky?

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Alex Ovechkin currently sits sixth all-time in career goals scored in the NHL.
USA Today

There are plenty of records set by the great Wayne Gretzky that will never get touched in the NHL. But in terms of his record for career goals, there’s a particularly skilled Russian that could very well break that milestone. 

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin currently sits at sixth all-time in career goals scored. The 35-year-old is one goal behind Marcel Dionne for fifth place. Given the fact that he has shown no signs of slowing down in his career, there is a real chance that Ovechkin could eventually sit at the top of the list for career goals. 

Here is how the NHL’s top 10 all-time in career goals looks. 

Who are the top 10 goal scorers in NHL history?

It has been quite some time since a modern face appeared in the top 10 in goals of all-time in the NHL, but Ovechkin entered that elite group last season. He now finds himself currently sixth all-time in career goals, with 730. 

Ovechkin could very soon find himself fourth all-time, as he is just one goal away from tying Marcel Dionne at 731 and just 12 goals away from passing Brett Hull at No. 4 with 741 goals.

Here is how the top 10 looks as of the end of the 2021 regular season. 

 
  1. Wayne Gretzky -- 894
  2. Gordie Howe -- 801
  3. Jaromir Jagr -- 766
  4. Brett Hull -- 741
  5. Marcel Dionne -- 731
  6. Alex Ovechkin -- 730
  7. Phil Esposito -- 717
  8. Mike Gartner -- 708
  9. Mark Messier -- 694
  10. Steve Yzerman -- 692

Which active NHL player has the most goals?

Ovechkin currently has the most career goals among active players with 730. Ovechkin this season alone jumped from No. 8 to No. 6, after passing Mike Gartner and Phil Esposito. Ovechkin tallied 24 goals in the 2021 regular season. 

Ovechkin is followed by Patrick Marleau with 566 career goals and Sidney Crosby with 486 career goals. Marleau’s future in the NHL is up in the air, but the 41-year-old said that he wants to return for a 24th season, and with the San Jose Sharks, if possible. Marleau had just nine points in 56 games this season, including four goals. Crosby, like Ovechkin, potted 24 goals this regular season. 

Here is the current top 10 in career goals scored among active players. 

  1. Alex Ovechkin -- 730
  2. Patrick Marleau -- 566
  3. Sidney Crosby -- 486
  4. Eric Staal -- 441
  5. Steven Stamkos -- 439
  6. Joe Thornton -- 425
  7. Evgeni Malkin -- 424
  8. Patrick Kane -- 404
  9. Jeff Carter -- 399
  10. Joe Pavelski -- 396

Can Ovechkin break Gretzky’s goal record?

Ovechkin is currently 164 goals behind Gretzky for the all-time scoring leaders. The 35-year-old Russian will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season, but he said this offseason that he could play another five years for the Capitals

Given that he has averaged 0.61 goals per game in his career, it would take about 268 games to pass Gretzky’s record if Ovechkin continues on that pace. That would mean that if Ovechkin stays healthy and the NHL goes back to 82-game seasons, it wouldn’t be until about the first quarter of the 2024-25 NHL season that Ovechkin could break the record and become the all-time leading goal scorer in NHL history. 

The Capitals captain also said he would like to retire by playing his final games with HC Dynamo Moskow of the Kontinental Hockey League in Russia, however he jokingly also said that if he were to break Gretzky’s record, “You're probably never going to see me on the ice again.”

 

Who led the NHL in goals in 2021?

While Ovechkin is working his way up on the all-time top 10 list, he couldn’t crack the top 10 in goals for the 2021 season. Toronto Maple Leaf Auston Matthews led the charge with an impressive 41 goals in 51 games this regular season. Edmonton Oiler Connor McDavid finished second, while Chicago Blackhawk Alex DeBrincat was sandwiched in third between McDavid and fellow Oiler Leon Draisaitl in fourth. 

Here’s who leads the NHL in goals scored after Tuesday night's Stanley Cup playoff games:

  1. Auston Matthews -- 41
  2. Connor McDavid -- 33
  3. Alex DeBrincat -- 32
  4. Leon Draisaitl -- 31
  5. Mikko Rantanen -- 30
  6. Brad Marchand -- 30
  7. Tyler Toffoli -- 28
  8. Kirill Kaprizov -- 27
  9. Alexsander Barkov -- 27
  10. Kyle Connor -- 26

Bryan Murphy contributed to this story.