Alex Ovechkin's pursuit of Wayne Gretzky's NHL record of 894 goals has been on hold since the League paused the 2019-20 regular season on March 12 due to the concerns surrounding the coronavirus.
But three of Ovechkin's Metropolitan Division rivals said they believe the Washington Capitals forward will have a good chance of eventually breaking Gretzky's record whenever the NHL resumes play.
"Honestly, Ovi, you haven't given us any reason to doubt that," New York Islanders forward Anders Lee told Ovechkin during a video call arranged by the NHL on Thursday. "It's been fun to watch and fun to see you continue year after year. Obviously playing against you is not fun, but any milestone goal the rest of the way, just not against the Isles."
New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban and Columbus Blue Jackets forward Nick Foligno were also on the call and shared similar sentiments.
Ovechkin has 48 goals this season, which is tied with David Pastrnak of the Boston Bruins for the NHL lead. Ovechkin has 706 goals in his 15 NHL seasons.
Before the season was halted, the 34-year-old had 13 games left to score the two goals he needed to reach 50 for the ninth time. That would tie Gretzky and Mike Bossy for the most 50-goal seasons in NHL history.
Ovechkin is two goals from tying Mike Gartner for seventh in NHL history with 708 goals, and needs 189 to pass Gretzky. Ovechkin scored his 700th NHL goal against Subban and the Devils on Feb. 22.
"If he did catch Wayne, it would be great for the game," Subban said. "I think we see it in other sports. We see what [Lebron James is] doing in basketball. We've seen what Tom Brady's done (in the NFL). I think that in hockey, we've seen it as the years go by and by, a lot of these legends and Hall of Famers that are they're getting older, and we need to have people that currently you can touch and you can watch and you can talk to and see and watch on TV that are setting milestones as well."
Gretzky said in January that he believes Ovechkin has "a real legitimate chance" of breaking his record and "it would be wonderful for the game." Ovechkin has repeatedly downplayed his chances of catching Gretzky and tried to end the discussion Thursday, saying, "Let's finish this one."
But that didn't stop Foligno from adding his thoughts.
"Just the way you play the game, I love the passion that you play with; I think that's something everybody appreciates about you," Foligno said. "So when you talk about why everyone wants to see you do it, I think it's because you deserve it, the way you play the game, how hard you play."