Before I start this Fanpost, allow me to thank Hardev Lad for the inspiration to write it and for the help in getting to know the page. This is my first ever post, so don't be too harsh in the comments. Alright, now enjoy reading.
Is Alexander Ovechkin. End of article. Thank you for reading.
But seriously, who really is the greatest of all time when we purely look at goalscoring in a full career. There are several arguments to be had here, so let's start off easy.
Currently Wayne "the great one" Gretzky holds the record for most goals scored in a single season, and in a career. He and his brother Brent also hold the record for most goals scored and most points by two brothers. Brent finished his career with four points. Pretty ridiculous.
So, the obvious answer here seems to be Wayne Gretzky being the greatest goalscorer ever who set foot (or skates in this case) on a hockey rink, which is absolutely a viable argument to make.
Yet I'm going to make a case for two different players in history who could have, or one who still can, overtake Gretzky for the #1 spot on the all-time goals list.
1) Mario Lemieux
Yes, I know I put Alex Ovechkin in the introductory sentence of this article, but I want to first have a look at the illustrious career of Mario Lemieux. He played a total of 915 games in his 17-year career, and scored an amazing 690 goals with 1033 assists, giving him 1723 (!) points. Which is absolutely ridiculous, but if we just break it down a little more, it becomes nearly unbelievable. In 3 of his last 4 seasons, he only scored a combined 14 goals.
So in his prime, he scored 676 goals in 14 seasons, which is an average of 48,2 goals. But, as he was plagued by injuries pretty much his whole career, he only played 855 games out of the 1148 games he could have. If we do some quick math, that means he scored at a pace of 0,79 gpg (goals per game), which would put him miles ahead of the competition in the all-time gpg leader board, where, despite being injured and having some slow-ish seasons, he still ranks 2nd all time with a .754 career average.
So, if he had been healthy for almost all of his career, could he have caught Gretzky? Well, simply said, even if he regressed at the end of his career due to age, if we assume, he would have "normally" regressed as other legends and superstars of the game did, yes, absolutely.
The problem with "Super Mario" is that he was injured A LOT and therefore never caught Gretzky, even tough he could have. Which brings me to...
2) Alexander Ovechkin
As of December 10, 2019, Alex Ovechkin, winger of the Washington Capitals, and the best goalscorer of his time, sits on 679 goals. At the start of the season, he had 21 goals less, which is how I did my math on this one, just to be clear. Which puts him 215 goals off the #1 spot on the all-time goal scorers list.
In his last five seasons (not including 2019/2020), he scored 236 goals in 405 games, which puts his average at around 0,58 gpg. The question I and many others ask themselves is whether this type of production is going to be sustainable, and since Ovechkin has continued his pace even this season, I'm going to assume, at least for 2020 and 2021, he's going to keep it up.
If he does keep his pace up and does not get injured heavily and therefore plays about 160 games in the next two seasons, he would, on average, score 93 goals (an average of 46.5 goals per season) and finish his current contract with 751 goals, putting him 4th all-time.
And as we know, these numbers, based on the season he is having, not crazy to assume, since as of right now, Ovechkin sits at 22 goals in 37 games, a 48.7-goal pace, which falls right in line with the averages.
3rd all time right now is Jaromir Jágr, who has 766 goals, an estimated 15 goals in front of Alex Ovechkin after those two seasons.
So now we are getting into real speculation territory. What will Ovechkin do after his deal is up? Will he retire? Or will he sing a new deal?
For the argument's sake, I'm going to assume he does sign a new deal, but he also slows down in goalscoring considerably, since he will be age 36 and onwards. So, let's say he signs a 3-year deal with Washington and his gpg goes down to somewhere in between: .52, .49, .43 and .42, .40, .38 (an average of around .4 gpg, resembling the worst season of his career) he would score somewhere around 105 goals.
These 105 goals would put him at 856, 38 goals off of the #1 spot, 2nd all-time. That is an amazing accomplishment, and he could then be very, very proud of himself, but he would be just off of the Gretzky record.
Will Ovechkin catch Gretzky? I honestly have no idea. It very much depends on himself.