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Behind The Numbers

Ovechkin earns place as best NHL Russia-born player, statistics show

Goal-scoring excellence puts Capitals forward ahead of countrymen

by Scott Cullen / Correspondent

Alex Ovechkin is the greatest Russia-born player in NHL history.

That he is about to become the highest-scoring player from Russia is the latest exhibit in an argument that began gathering steam several seasons ago.

Ovechkin has 1,179 points in 1,054 games, tying Sergei Fedorov, who played 1,248 NHL games and has held the scoring record since passing Alexander Mogilny (1,032) during the 2005-06 season.

The 33-year-old forward is without peer among Russia-born players as an NHL goal scorer with 644. Fedorov is second with 483.


[RELATED: How Ovechkin's one-timer became unstoppable on Capitals power play]


Ovechkin, who leads the NHL with 37 goals this season, has seven 50-goal seasons and could be on his way to an eighth. There have been 13 other 50-goal seasons among players of any nationality since Ovechkin joined the NHL in 2005-06. He has led the NHL in goals seven times and has six more this season than Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid, Buffalo Sabres forward Jeff Skinner and Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane.

Ovechkin has been so prolific in scoring goals that the unthinkable has become a possibility. He could, if he plays long enough and effectively enough, catch Wayne Gretzky as the all-time NHL goal-scoring leader.

Gretzky scored 894 NHL goals, an outrageous number once thought to be untouchable. 

Ovechkin needs 250 goals to tie, but there are plausible scenarios to be drawn that get him there if he can stay healthy and productive into his 40s.

One overlooked aspect of Ovechkin's NHL career is that he's been extremely durable, missing 30 games in his 14 seasons. To stay healthy and to produce goals at a prolific rate is among the hardest things to do in the NHL.

Video: WSH@TOR: Ovechkin pots 1,179th point, ties Fedorov

Among those joining Ovechkin in the conversation as the greatest Russia-born player, none were nearly as durable.

Fedorov may have been the best from Russia before Ovechkin, but his game was completely different. Ovechkin is a high-volume shooter who scores at an accelerated rate and Fedorov was an all-around player. He scored 50 goals once (56 in 1993-94) and had 100 points twice in his NHL career, but won the Selke Award (top defensive forward) twice and finished in the top four three more times. 

From 1992-93 to 1996-97, Fedorov may have been the best two-way forward in hockey. He won the Hart Trophy (MVP), Lester B. Pearson Award (most outstanding player chosen by the NHL Players' Association, now the Ted Lindsay Award) and Selke Trophy in 1993-94. He won the Stanley Cup three times with the Detroit Red Wings (1997, 1998, 2002) and had 176 points (52 goals, 124 assists) in 183 Stanley Cup Playoff games. Ovechkin has 117 (61 goals, 56 assists) points in 121 postseason games.

There are other elite scorers from Russia in the conversation.

Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin has 985 points (384 goals, 601 assists) in 834 NHL games. His 1.18 points per game is third among active players behind Sidney Crosby (1.29) and Connor McDavid (1.28), but ahead of Ovechkin (1.12).

Malkin has won the Stanley Cup three times, the Art Ross Trophy (given to the player who leads the NHL in points) twice and one Hart Trophy. Malkin has played 220 less games despite arriving in the NHL the season after Ovechkin (2006-07).

Ilya Kovalchuk is an Ovechkin contemporary who was a premier goal-scorer and a decade ago might have been considered a challenger as the best Russia-born player. Kovalchuk, now with the Los Angeles Kings, spent five years in the Kontinental Hockey League and that absence depressed his NHL numbers. He has 839 points (427 goals, 412 assists) in 857 games but has never won the Cup and reached the Final once with the New Jersey Devils in 2012.

Video: LAK@COL: Kovalchuk nets blistering one-timer for PPG

Pavel Bure and Mogilny are included in the argument as well. Each was a gifted scorer.

Bure led the NHL in goals three times and scored at least 50 five times, but his career was cut short by injuries; he was out of the NHL soon after turning 32. His 1.11 points per game is almost equal to Ovechkin's, but in 352 less games.

Mogilny had 1,032 points (473 goals, 599 assists) in 990 NHL games, though he exceeded 50 goals twice, including a 76-goal season with the Sabres in 1992-1993. He won the Cup with the Devils in 2000.

Pavel Datsyuk should also get consideration. The forward had 918 points (314 goals, 604 assists) in 953 games with the Red Wings and was a dominant two-way player. He won the Selke Trophy three times and the Cup twice.

Among defensemen, Sergei Zubov, Sergei Gonchar and Andrei Markov each had good NHL careers. They were among the most productive in their roles, but none won the Norris Trophy. It's hard to compete with the best goal-scorer of this generation, if not all time, without being the best defenseman at some point.

There were many other Russia-born players who came to the NHL too late in their careers to showcase the full breadth of their talents. Sergei Makarov, Igor Larionov and Viacheslav Fetisov were all effective NHL players, but they were older and beyond their prime years when they dominated internationally for the Soviet Union.

Though there may be players who offered a more complete game -- Fedorov and Datsyuk come to mind -- there should be no doubt that Ovechkin's goal-scoring excellence is enough to earn his place as the best Russia-born NHL player in history.

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