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Ovechkin will break Gretzky's goals record, Jagr says

Capitals forward 195 from passing The Great One for most in NHL history

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

Now that Alex Ovechkin has scored 700 NHL goals, Jaromir Jagr said he believes the Washington Capitals forward will pass him and eventually Wayne Gretzky.

Jagr, who last played in the NHL in 2017-18, sounded resigned that Ovechkin will surpass his 766 NHL goals, which rank third behind Gretzky (894) and Gordie Howe (801).

"I don't know that, but what I know is he will probably do it," Jagr told NHL.com. "When I went to play in Russia (in 2008), I knew that I would barely add some numbers in NHL history. But it's not just me; I think even Wayne Gretzky's record is in danger."

 

[RELATED: Complete Alex Ovechkin 700 goals coverage]

 

Ovechkin is within 194 goals of Gretzky's NHL record after he scored No. 700 against the New Jersey Devils on Saturday. The 34-year-old forward is the eighth NHL player to reach the milestone, joining Gretzky, Howe, Jagr, Brett Hull (741), Marcel Dionne (731), Phil Esposito (717) and Mike Gartner (708).

When Gretzky was in St. Louis for the 2020 Honda NHL All-Star Game on Jan. 25, he said he believes Ovechkin has "a real legitimate chance" to break his record.

Jagr was the most recent player to score his 700th NHL goal, for the Devils in a 6-1 win against the New York Islanders on March 1, 2014.

Jagr, who left the NHL to play in the Kontinental Hockey League for three seasons before returning in 2011-12, played 1,733 NHL games over 24 seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Capitals, New York Rangers, Flyers, Dallas Stars, Boston Bruins, Devils, Florida Panthers and Calgary Flames. Jagr returned to play in the Czech Republic after being released by Calgary in 2018 and said he wonders if Ovechkin, a native of Moscow, might want to play in his home country of Russia before he retires.

But if Ovechkin continues to play in the NHL, Jagr said he believes the Capitals captain can break Gretzky's record.

"If he stays in the NHL and will still have that passion for the game, then I think he will," said Jagr, who turns 48 on Feb. 15 and continues to play professionally for his hometown team in Kladno. "Records are there to be broken, right? And [Ovechkin] has always been a player who did the maximum for his team to win, so he would deserve it. The huge talent he has for scoring goals is a big plus, and I think he is a good role model for other players too."

Ovechkin has 42 goals this season and is on pace to score 56. He's eight goals from his ninth 50-goal season, which would tie him with Gretzky and Mike Bossy for the most in NHL history.

After scoring 33 goals in 2016-17, his fewest in a full NHL season since he scored 32 in 2010-11, Ovechkin scored 49 in 2017-18 and 51 last season.

It took Ovechkin 190 games to get from 500 goals to 600, and he needed 155 games to get from 600 to 700. Gretzky was the only player who took fewer than 200 games to go from 600 to 700, doing it in 169 games.

"He has been able to adjust to the style of play," Jagr said of Ovechkin. "And it does not matter which kind of hockey was there 10 years ago and which hockey is there now, he has been able to adjust. Even I was surprised how he did it. I did not believe he would be so dominant. He's had some period of time when I thought he would be slowly going down, and all of a sudden there was some turn and he started to get back up and started to work and play for the team. And then his performance went up too."

NHL.com/cs senior independent correspondent Michael Langr contributed to this report

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