There’s no overstating what Alex Ovechkin accomplished in sniping his 500th career goal in Sunday night’s 7–1 win over the Ottawa Senators. He didn’t simply cement his reputation as one of the greatest scorers of all time with the wicked snapper that beat goalie Andrew Hammond. By getting the marker in his 801st game, he became the fifth-fastest player in NHL history to the milestone. With scoring rates in decline, that’s a distinction he may hold in perpetuity.
But while the 30-year-old winger sets his sights even higher—is Wayne Gretzky’s career mark of 892 really out of the question?—it’s time to consider who will follow Ovi to 500.
Marian Hossa has next. With 493 heading into this week’s action, it’s only a matter of weeks before he becomes the 44th player to reach the milestone. The Chicago Blackhawks star has struggled to light the lamp lately, breaking a 14-game slump by scoring his sixth and seventh of the season in Sunday’s 6–3 thumping of the Avalanche. Still, the 36-year-old is clicking at a rate of one every three games since 2012-13. If he can keep that pace, he’ll reach 500 in early March. Maybe, if the hockey gods are smiling, it will come against one of his former teams when the Hawks host the Red Wings on March 6.
After Hossa, though, it takes some projecting. So we looked at the list of leading active goal scorers to see who might have 500 goals in their sights, then considered their scoring rate since the start of the 2012-13 season to give us a sense of what their pace might be over the next few years. Since there’s no way to predict their health moving forward, we’re assuming they’ll play full seasons, while understanding that this gives us only a very broad generalization of what might lie ahead.
With that in mind, it seems like we’d better enjoy these 500-goal men while we can. They’ll be few and far between after next season.
• Patrick Marleau (470): The 36-year-old has rediscovered his form after an off-year, lighting the lamp 14 times in just 36 games this season for the Sharks. He’s scored 83 goals since the start of the 2012-13 season, a pace of .29 per game. At that rate, he’ll need 104 more games to get the 30 he needs, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him hit the milestone before next Christmas.
• Vincent Lecavalier (411): The first pick in the 1998 draft has announced his intentions to retire after this season. With just 38 goals since 2012—none this season—it’s safe to say he won't make it.
• Patrik Elias (407): The soon-to-be 40-year-old winger has just one goal in 13 games this season and hasn’t topped 20 since 2011-12. Nothing wrong with retiring as a member of the 400-goal club.
• Rick Nash (390): With just 12 goals through 39 games this season, it’s starting to look like his career-best 42-goal campaign of 2014-15 was an aberration. Still, Nash has been scoring at a rate of .44 goals per game since 2012-13, slightly above his career average of .43. If he can keep that up, he’ll need 250 games to get to 500. More likely, though, he finds it harder to score as he moves into his mid-30s and this target gets pushed late into the 2019-20 season.
• Shane Doan (383): On pace for a career-best year—at age 39!—with 15 goals in 32 games, but Doan is destined to fall short.
• Marian Gaborik (382): Gaborik hasn’t played a full-season since 2011-12, so his health and declining goals per game numbers (.41 for his career, .29 since 2012-13) suggest the 33-year-old is likely to miss the mark.
• Joe Thornton (365): Jumbo hasn’t popped 20 in a season since 2010-11. Now 36, he’ll be lucky to break 400.
• Daniel Sedin (322): One of the finest goal-scorers of his generation is having a solid year with 17 in just 42 games, but at 35 he’s fast running out of track.
• Eric Staal (320): Just 31, but ... no.
• Sidney Crosby (314): He’s averaged .47 goals per game through his NHL his career, but just .39 since 2012-13. If he maintains his current pace—no sure thing, given his struggles this season—he would need to play another 478 games to get to 500, which puts his big day sometime in the 2021-22 season. Considering that he entered the league together with Ovechkin in 2005-06, this really puts some perspective on what the Great 8 has accomplished.
• Corey Perry (312): For a player who is averaging .46 goals per game since 2012-13, 500 isn’t out of the question, but at 31 Perry is closer to aging out than he is to his prime. He’s a long shot.
• Steven Stamkos (294): Stammer has averaged .55 goals per game through his career, scoring 115 times since the start of the 2012-13 season. If he maintains that pace—and at 25, that’s not out of the question—he’ll need another 375 games to reach 500. Start the countdown early in the 2020-21 season.
• Connor McDavid (5): Jan. 11, 2031. Mark your calendar.