Ryan Dadoun

Fantasy Nuggets

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Fantasy Nuggets Week 14

Thursday, January 12, 2017


Alex Ovechkin became the 84th player to ever reach the 1,000 point milestone last night, but he also scored his 545th and 546th career goals, breaking his tie with Maurice Richard to claim sole possession of 29th place on the all-time goals list.  Ovechkin should continue to climb up that leaderboard rather quickly as Michel Goulet (548) and Ron Francis (549) are both within striking distance.

 

Ovechkin being that high up on the goals list at the age of 31 makes me wonder how high he can climb up the list.  Or more specifically: Is it silly to think that Ovechkin could someday surpass Gretzky's mark of 894 goals?  The idea of breaking a Gretzky career record seems foolish, especially in this era, but at the end of the day it really just comes down to how much longevity Ovechkin has.

 

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Through their season where they were 30, Ovechkin had 525 career goals and Gretzky had 718, so clearly a comparison of where they were at roughly the same point in their careers heavily favors Gretzky.  That's not going to surprise anyone given that at this point in Gretzky's career, he had a 92-goal campaign, a 87-goal campaign, and two 70-plus goal seasons.  Ovechkin found the back of the net 65 times back in 2007-08, but beyond that he's never scored more than 56 goals in a season.  Which is impressive for the era Ovechkin's playing in, but it's nothing compared to The Great One.

 

Gretzky's goal scoring tendencies fell considerably in the second half of his career though.  Between 1987-88 through 1990-91 when he was roughly 27-30, he had 175 goals in 293 games.  In the same span Ovechkin has scored 186 goals in 286 contests during roughly the same time period of his career (2013 through 2015-16, which isn't a huge gain, but it comes despite the fact that the 2013 campaign was shortened to 48 games.  So far this season Ovechkin has 21 goals in 41 games while Gretzky finished his age 31 campaign with 31 goals in 74 contests.

 

After that Gretzky scored 145 goals in 488 contests from 1992-93 until his career ended with the 1998-99 campaign.  Over that span, he scored at least 30 goals once.  So there's a lot of leeway for Ovechkin to gain ground on Gretzky, relative to what The Great One did, over the remainder of Ovechkin's career.  Of course, the key is that the Capitals star has to continue to play at a very high level into his 30s, which isn't an impossibility, but it is far from a certainty.

 

Narrowing the focus just to this season, I'm very interested to see how the Richard Trophy race will play out.  Crosby has a comfortable lead right now with 26 goals in 34 games, but his 22.4 shooting percentage looks unsustainable and I think we're likely to see him score significantly less in the back half of his season.  After that Jeff Carter has 22 goals in 41 contests followed by Patrik Laine, Auston Matthews, and Ovechkin at 21 goals.

 

It's very impressive to see a pair of rookies in the top five, though unfortunately Laine is out with a concussion and depending on how long that keeps him out, it could prevent him from winning that race.  I'd also be hesitant to bet on Matthews maintaining his current pace for endurance reasons.  In 2016-17, Matthews participated in 57 high-level hockey games with 40 Swiss league contests (including the playoffs), seven World Juniors games, and 10 contests in the World Championships.  This season he started with three games for North America in the World Cup and now he's being asked to participate in an 82-game campaign while averaging plenty of minutes for a rookie (currently 17:51 per game).  That's a meaningful difference that could weigh on him towards the end.

 

It's entirely possible that Ovechkin might end up winning the Richard Trophy again and if he does, it will be his fifth consecutive season.  Going back to our Gretzky comparisons, his personal best was four consecutive seasons as the league's leading goal scorer.

 

Of course, while Ovechkin is an elite goal scorer, he's not one of the more well-rounded players.  Even if he does win the Richard Trophy for the fifth consecutive season, he might end up not even cracking the top-20 in points.

 

That race might end up going to Crosby though as it wouldn't surprise me if his goal pace does decline, but it's counterbalanced with more assists.  As it is, with 45 points in 34 contests, Crosby has the best points per game pace at 1.32, ahead of the injured Stamkos (1.18) and McDavid, who currently leads the league in total points with 48 in 43 contests.  Last season's Art Ross Trophy winner, Patrick Kane, is also in the running with 45 points in 44 games, but a far more interesting contender is Brent Burns, who is tied with Evgeni Malkin for fourth place with 44 points in 42 contests.

 

Burns is a long shot to win the Art Ross Trophy, but if he does pull it off he would become just the second defenseman to ever win it after Bobby Orr did so in 1969-70 and 1974-75.  He'd also be the second Sharks player to capture it after Joe Thornton, who won it in 2005-06 when he split the campaign between San Jose and Boston.

 

If nothing else, Burns seems to be running away with the blueliner scoring race.  The next best defenseman on the list is Victor Hedman and he's seven points behind (37 points in 42 games).  After that it's Erik Karlsson, who has 32 points in 39 contests.



Ryan Dadoun is an Associate Editor for Hockey on Rotoworld. Feel free to follow him on Twitter or check out his blog.
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