NHL PUCK DROPS: Impressive milestone

Lyle Richardson
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Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin, right, skates with the puck against New York Rangers right wing Jayson Megna Saturday in New York.

Four NHLers scored 500 goals quicker than Ovechkin, but they did it in different era

Washington Capitals left wing Alexander Ovechkin continues to establish himself as one of the NHL’s greatest goal scorers.

The 30-year-old Capitals captain recently became the fifth-fastest player to reach 500 goals. Hall of Famers Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Mike Bossy and Brett Hull did it in less time, and they played in a wide-open offensive era.

More impressive is Ovechkin reached the remarkable achievement in today’s game, where defensive systems rule and opponents are bigger, stronger and faster. With 26 goals in 41 games this season, Ovechkin once again leads the NHL in that category. He’s on pace for his seventh 50-goal season. The current record is nine, held by Gretzky and Bossy. It’s not a stretch to imagine Ovechkin tying or even eclipsing them.

During the last decade, fans have debated whether Ovechkin or Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby is this generation’s greatest player. With Crosby and his Penguins struggling while the Capitals dominate this season’s standings, the argument is tilting toward Ovechkin. Leading the Capitals to a Stanley Cup championship could push it further in his favour.

Speaking of Sidney Crosby, some observers wonder if the 28-year-old centre might benefit from a change of scenery. In recent weeks, several pundits suggested the Penguins captain could be dealt before the Feb. 29 trade deadline.

Don’t hold your breath awaiting that move. For one thing, the Penguins are currently up for sale. Sportnset’s Elliotte Friedman recently noted trading Crosby requires the blessing of current owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle. The Penguins are more valuable to prospective buyers with Crosby and fellow superstar Evgeni Malkin on the roster.

Another reason is Crosby holds a full no-movement clause. If he doesn’t want to be traded (and there’s no indication he does), there’s nothing the Penguins front office can do about it.

One player who could be on the move soon is Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin. After the 20-year-old was recently sent down to the Lightning’s AHL affiliate in Syracuse, his agent revealed the youngster sought a trade in November and repeated the request following the demotion.

Selected third overall in the 2013 NHL draft, Drouin struggled to meet expectations with the Lightning. The former Halifax Mooseheads star saw limited playing time as a rookie last season, netting 32 points in 70 games and skating in only six playoff games.

Prior to Drouin’s demotion, injuries limited him this season to eight points in 19 games. There’s speculation he’s clashed with Lightning head coach Jon Cooper over his role. Despite his struggles, media consensus suggests Drouin could blossom into a superstar on another NHL club.

Lightning GM Steve Yzerman isn’t ruling out a trade, and more than a dozen teams have reportedly made inquiries. Yzerman, however, holds all the cards in this situation. Drouin is signed through 2016-17 on an entry-level deal and has no leverage in this standoff. The Lightning GM can take his time fielding offers.

 

Lyle Richardson is a freelance writer with The Hockey News and runs the website Spector’s Hockey. His column will appear in The Guardian throughout the NHL hockey season.

Organizations: NHL, Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins Tampa Bay Lightning The Hockey News

Geographic location: Syracuse

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