Can Ovechkin Break Gretzky’s NHL Goals Record?

By Theo Neel
Can Ovechkin Break Gretzky's NHL Goals Record?

Alex Ovechkin could have moved on. Instead, he’s poised to make a move on Wayne Gretzky. Armed with a new $47.5 million contract, Ovechkin, 35, is staying with the Washington Capitals, prepared to make a run at the Great One’s NHL record for career goals.

With 730 career goals, Ovechkin needs to score 164 more times to pull even with Gretzky’s NHL mark of 894 regular-season goals. BetOnline is offering a prop wager on whether Ovi will overtake the Great One as the NHL’s career goal-scoring king. Their oddsmakers aren’t showing much faith in Ovechkin getting the job done. No is the -300 favorite in this prop. A yes wager brings with it odds of +200.


Based on his five-year deal, Ovechkin would need to average 32.8 goals per season to deadlock with Gretzky atop the all-time goals list. A 33-goals-per-season pace would be enough to give Ovechkin the record and make him the most productive goal scorer in the history of the NHL.

Number Six And Climbing

Ovechkin currently sits sixth overall on the NHL’s all-time goals list. He’s the active leader in goals among NHL players. Last season, Ovechkin surpassed Mike Gartner (708) and Phil Esposito (717) on the career goals list as he became the eighth player in NHL history to pot 700 regular-season goals.

He’ll make some quantum leaps during the upcoming 2020-21 season. Barring some unforeseen circumstances and based upon his career goal-scoring averages, Ovechkin is going to surpass Marcel Dionne (731), Brett Hull (741) and Jaromir Jagr (766) and move into third on the all-time goals list.

That would leave just Mr. Hockey himself, Gordie Howe (801 goals) standing between Ovechkin and his pursuit of Gretzky.

Great One vs Great Eight

Building suspense for Ovechkin’s eventual chasing of Gretzky, the NHL arranged to stage a video game competition between Gretzky and Ovechkin.

Billing it as The Great One vs. The Great Eight Showcase, the plan was for Gretzky and Ovechkin to clash in a best-of-three showdown playing the EA Sports NHL video game on Xbox. The competition was held while the NHL season was shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic and was live-streamed on the Capitals’ Twitch channel.

Gretzky won the first game 5-4. After Ovechkin rallied for a 4-1 victory in the second game, the two hockey legends opted to call it a draw. They didn’t contest the rubber match of the showdown.

The event raised more than $40,000 for charity.

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Comparing Gretzky And Ovechkin

Over his 16 NHL seasons, Ovechkin has always offered short odds at NHL betting sites to lead the league in goals. Ovechkin has won the Rocket Richard Trophy as the NHL’s goal-scoring champion on nine occasions. The three-time NHL MVP and one-time Stanley Cup champion have produced eight 50-goal seasons.

Ovechkin’s 65-goal season in 2007-08 was the highest output by a player in a single NHL campaign since Mario Lemieux scored 69 goals for the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1995-96.

During Gretzky’s NHL playing days, there was no award that was presented to the league’s goal-scoring leader. He led the league in goals five times and remains the only player to record 90 goals in a season, finished with 92 in 1981-82.

Gretzky also topped 80 goals in another season and went over 70 goals in two other campaigns. He scored at least 50 goals in nine different seasons.

The Great One scored his 894 goals in 1487 games. That works out to 0.601 goals per game. The Great Eight has scored his 730 goals in 1197 games. That’s an average of 0.610 goals per game, ahead of Gretzky’s career pace.

Hurt By Labor Disputes And Pandemic

Ovechkin has been fortunate during his playing days when it comes to injury. Only once in 16 seasons has he missed as many as 10 games in a single year.

Other factors out of his control have certainly impacted Ovechkin’s goal-scoring output. A labor dispute that led to a lockout of the players by team owners reduced the 2012-13 NHL season from 82 to 48 games.

The past two NHL seasons were impacted by COVID-19. The shutdown of the 2019-20 regular season shortened Ovechkin’s campaign to 68 games. The 2020-21 season was also limited by COVID-19. The league shortened the season to 56 games.

Ovi’s 2021 Slowdown

On the surface, it would appear that Ovechkin’s 2020-21 season might present cause for concern. He scored just 24 times in 45 games. That was only good enough to tie for 13th in the NHL goal-scoring race.

However, projected over an 82-game season, Ovechkin would’ve scored 43 goals. That’s well ahead of the 33-goal pace he’d need to chase down Gretzky.

He’s only dropped below that 33-goal pace once over his 16 seasons. Ovechkin scored 32 goals during the 2011-12 season. He also scored 32 goals during the lockout-shortened 48-game 2012-13 campaign. That translates to 55 goals over 82 games.

Can He Do It?

Gretzky’s goal-scoring mark seemed insurmountable. Then again, at one point, so did Howe’s 801 goals and Babe Ruth’s 714 home runs for that matter.

Records, as they say, are made to be broken.

Ovechkin’s new contract keeps him in Washington through the 2025-26 NHL season. Based on his 0.610 goals per game career average, barring injury, it should take Ovechkin 268 games to get to 894 career goals. That would be 22 games into the 2024-25 season.

With the rest of that season and another one after that, and based on the consistency he’s displayed as a goal scorer over his career, count on Ovechkin adding up the most goals in NHL history before he’s done playing.

Pick: Yes (+200).

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Can Ovechkin Break Gretzky's NHL Goals Record?
There's a prop bet on whether Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin will break Wayne Gretzky's NHL goals record.

About the Author

Theo Neel
Theo Neel

Theo is our NFL guy. He is the go-to man for all things football and has proven himself to be one of the most expensive writers here, with a broad knowledge of North American sports.

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