Milestone Men: 10 NHL players chasing major marks in 2019-20 - The Hockey News on Sports Illustrated

Milestone Men: 10 NHL players chasing major marks in 2019-20

From goal plateaus to games played milestones, these 10 players are seeking some major statistical marks this coming season.
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It was going to come eventually, but it’s a shame Roberto Luongo had to hang up his skates when he did. Second in career games played by a goaltender and third all-time in wins, Luongo had serious Hall of Fame credentials, but one more year in the crease could have given him a nice, round number to flash to those who vote for enshrinement: 500 wins.

In NHL history, only two goaltenders have been able to accomplish that feat: Martin Brodeur, the league’s all-time winningest netminder, who has 691 wins to his name, and Patrick Roy, who sits second all-time with 551 career victories. And rest assured, if Luongo was healthy enough to play, say, half the season, chances are he would have been able to join Brodeur and Roy. Upon his retirement, Luongo finished his career with 489 wins. He would have needed just 11 more victories to become the third netminder to reach the 500-win plateau, and with a certain boost behind the bench in Joel Quenneville, chances are the Cats would have been able to provide Luongo the support to get those victories.

None of this matters now, of course. Luongo has retired, and done so as the third-winningest netminder in league history with the second-most games played of any keeper (1,044). But with Luongo gone, which other notable NHLers will be chasing noteworthy achievements this season? Here are 10 players who have their eyes on and are likely to reach major statistical milestones in 2019-20:

Alex Ovechkin – 700 goals
There isn’t much more that Ovechkin needs to prove in order to cement his legacy as one of the greatest goal scorers in NHL history. In fact, some will assert he has already done all he needs to establish himself as the most lethal sharpshooter the league has ever seen. Either way, he is in line to add another major milestone to his impeccable resume. With 658 career goals, Ovechkin is 42 goals away from becoming the eighth player in NHL history to record 700 goals. Assuming he’s healthy this season – and he’s never really missed an extended period of time – Ovechkin should flirt with and likely score the 42 goals he needs to become the eighth 700-goal scorer in league history.

Sidney Crosby – 1,300 points
Maybe less so now, but during the early part of their careers, Ovechkin and Crosby were inextricably linked. It was the superstar rivalry in the league. And while Ovechkin is chasing down his 700th goal, he’ll also be seeking his 1,300th point, from which he sits 89 points shy. But here’s the thing: Ovechkin has only had one season of 89 points or better – and it was last season – in his past nine campaigns. Crosby, though? His 1,216 points leave him 84 back of the 1,300-point plateau, and he has scored at least that many points in each of his past six seasons. Give him good health next season and he’ll give you the milestone.

Joe Thornton – 1,500 points
Part longevity, part offensive brilliance. As Thornton eyes up yet another campaign in San Jose, and all indications are that he will be back with the Sharks, he does so with the rare 1,500-point plateau in his sights. Only 22 points stand between Thornton and the mark, and the freewheeling Sharks attack is one that will set ‘Jumbo’ up to reach the milestone. But much like a midnight infomercial, that’s not all! On his way to the 1,500-point milestone, Thornton could also flirt with becoming the eighth player with 1,100 assists. He needs 35 helpers to get there, which is exactly how many he had last season. Oh, and Thornton can reach 1,600 games by skating in another 34 contests.

Zdeno Chara – 1,500 games played
The more impressive games played milestone belongs to Patrick Marleau, who is 43 games away from becoming the fifth player in league history to suit up in 1,700 contests. The wrinkle, however, is that Marleau doesn’t have a contract and there’s no guarantee he’ll have one by the time the campaign rolls around. With that in mind, we turn our attention to Chara, who is only 15 games away from becoming the 21st player to skate in 1,500 games. He’ll be only the sixth defenseman on the list.

Marc-Andre Fleury – 800 games played
Only 15 goaltenders in NHL history have seen action in 800 contests, but that list is going to grow by one and it should be, oh, all of about a week into the new campaign by the time it does so. Fleury, the face of the franchise in Vegas, will match Nikolai Khabibulin, who finished his career with 799 games played, following the Golden Knights’ first game of the season. If Fleury gets the start in each of the first two games this season, he’ll hit the 800 games milestone. Barring a catastrophic injury, he’s hitting the mark this season.

Henrik Lundqvist – 450 wins
Much like Fleury’s pursuit of 800 games played, Lundqvist shouldn’t need much time to check this one off. The Rangers mainstay has 449 career victories, putting him one away from becoming the sixth goaltender in NHL history with at least 450 wins. Lundqvist isn’t going to simply stop there, though, and it’s almost certain that he’ll surpass Curtis Joseph (454 wins) for fifth on the all-time list. ‘King Henrik’ could also potentially play his 900th game this season, though that would require 43 games in the Blueshirts’ crease. That’s no given. (It should be noted, however, that Fleury could surpass Lundqvist before the season is up. The two are 10 victories apart on the all-time list, and Fleury compiled 17 more wins last season.)

Patrick Kane – 1,000 points
Nothing slows the passage of time. We will all wither and turn to dust. We know this because Kane, who was once a fresh-faced, baby-faced kid stepping on stage as the first overall pick in the 2007 draft, is staring down his 1,000th career point. Sure, it’s no given he gets there because he’s 62 points shy of the mark, but so long as Kane is healthy throughout the year, he should have no problem notching point No. 1,000. He’s averaged 95 points per season across his past four campaigns.

Eric Staal – 1,000 points
There is a distinct possibility that before Kane reaches the 1,000-point plateau, Staal will become the 89th player on the list. Entering the 2019-20 campaign, he’s at 974 career points. Put another way, he needs 26 points – or half of what he produced last season with the Minnesota Wild – in order to reach the millennium mark. Staal will be 35 shortly after the season begins, but there’s no reason why he can’t play at least a couple more seasons following the upcoming campaign and push himself further up the all-time scoring list.

Steven Stamkos – 400 goals
There is always going to be a “what if” attached to Stamkos’ career. A two-time Rocket Richard winner in the first four seasons of his career, Stamkos had the fifth year of his career cut in half due to the lockout, missed more than half of his sixth campaign due to injury and then missed nearly all of the 2016-17 campaign when injury struck again. Those are three prime years that were limited. Still, Stamkos enters the coming season with 400 goals dead in his sights. He needs seven tallies to reach the mark, and the goals will also put him on his way to the 800-point plateau. Currently at 766 career points, he needs another 34 to make this a two milestone season.

Evgeni Malkin – 400 goals
There will be a minor Race to 400 between Stamkos and Malkin, as the latter is two back of the former and only nine goals shy of reaching the 400-goal plateau. Malkin probably would have reached the milestone last season had it not been an off year, though. He scored 21 goals in 68 games, and it was the second-lowest goals per game rate of his career. That said, if Malkin comes back with a vengeance this season and plays similarly to his 2017-18 campaign, he could reach 400 goals and 1,100 points in the same season. He’s 98 points away from reaching 1,100, and that’s exactly what he produced in 78 games during the 2017-18 season.

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