Pavel Bure, one of the greatest Russian goal scorers of all time, is quite impressed with the latest accomplishment of countryman Alex Ovechkin, who became the first Russian to reach 500 goals in the NHL.
"Five hundred goals in the NHL is a very serious achievement," Bure said in his bi-weekly contribution to NHL.com/ru. "Only few players could say that they did it. Things like that are great in terms of promoting popularity of hockey."
Ovechkin scored goals No. 500 and 501 on Sunday in a victory against the Ottawa Senators. He has played 801 NHL games and is the 43rd player to reach the 500-goal plateau. He is the fifth-fastest player to 500 goals, trailing Hall of Famer members Wayne Gretzky (575 games), Mario Lemieux (605), Mike Bossy (647) and Brett Hull (693).
"Ovechkin is very unique because he is always able to adjust to new rules, [coaching] changes, bigger goalies," Bure said. "He continues to produce at the highest level no matter what."
In a way, that was a description of Bure, who scored 437 goals in 702 games before retiring in 2003 because of recurring injury concerns. But Bure does not believe he and Ovechkin are equals. He gave the nod to Ovechkin because of the changes that have been made to the game in the past two decades.
"It's hard to compare my and Ovi's styles because we played in different eras," he said. "I don't think players who succeeded 20 years ago would be able to do the same things now."
So, who might be the next Russian to reach the 500-goal level? Bure looks to the Western Conference and sees two younger players that have a chance: Chicago Blackhawks forward Artemi Panarin, 24, and St. Louis Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko. Panarin, in his first year in the League, has 15 goals in 45 games. Tarasenko, 24, has 90 goals in three-plus NHL seasons.
"They are young and hungry players with tremendous amount of love for the game," Bure said. "If both stay healthy, they can score many goals in this League."