Alex Ovechkin scored the 700th goal of his career Saturday. He is the eighth player in NHL history to reach 700 goals, joining Wayne Gretzky (894), Gordie Howe (801), Jaromir Jagr (766), Brett Hull (741), Marcel Dionne (731), Phil Esposito (717) and Mike Gartner (708). Ovechkin is the first to score 700 since Jagr, then with the New Jersey Devils, reached the milestone on March 1, 2014. But who will be the next player to reach the milestone, or will it ever happen again? We asked several NHL.com staffers that question.
Dave Stubbs, columnist
Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid has massive, probably untapped skill on his side. He's 542 goals away, but also has lot of hockey ahead of him. The 23-year-old has scored 30, 41 and 41 goals in his three full NHL seasons, an average of 37 per year. He has 30 this season and will need about 15 more seasons at that pace, putting him to 700 when he's 38. But I'm guessing that McDavid would get there sooner than that, his future likely holding a few seasons, at least, of 50 or more goals.
Pete Jensen, senior fantasy editor
Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews, who ranks second among active players in goals per game (0.56) behind Ovechkin (0.61), has scored between 34 and 40 goals in each of his first four NHL seasons. He's 22 years old, has 154 career goals in 275 games, and with 43 goals this season has set an NHL-career high. Even though Matthews missed some time because of injury in each of the previous two seasons, he is off to the best start of the any active player not named Ovechkin on the road to 700 goals.
Amalie Benjamin, staff writer
I've vowed to answer every roundtable question this season with David Pastrnak's name, so why stop now? The Boston Bruins forward lines up not all that differently than McDavid in this exercise. Pastrnak is eight months older, and has 177 goals to McDavid's 158, having been in the NHL one season longer. He has a League-leading 45 goals this season and has his sights set on clearing 50, which isn't too hard to see happening year after year. He's not going to have the benefit of playing with linemates Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand for the rest of his career, but the three should have some good years ahead, helping to launch Pastrnak on the road to 700.
Video: BOS@VAN: Pastrnak notches 45th goal on power play
Tom Gulitti, staff writer
Even after all that Steven Stamkos has been through with injuries in his career, he's up to 422 goals and turned 30 on Feb. 7. With 29 goals in 56 games this season, the Tampa Bay Lightning forward is on pace to finish with 39, which would get him to 432 goals at the end of this season. With a career average of .52 goals per game, Stamkos is likely to slow down some as he ages, but he is in a situation with Tampa Bay where he should have a good chance to get the 268 more goals he'll need after this season. Like Ovechkin, he's on a team that should be very good for years to come and he will likely be surrounded by a lot of top players well into his mid-30s. If he plays seven or eight more seasons and has better luck with his health, 700 should be within reach.
Tracey Myers, staff writer
I'm going with Nathan MacKinnon on this one. I have to keep reminding myself that, while MacKinnon is in his seventh NHL season, he's 25 years old. There's a whole lot of years and goal scoring left for the Colorado Avalanche center, who has 188 goals in 517 NHL games. Yes, I know he has some great scorers around him in forwards Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen. But the offense goes through MacKinnon, who has shown the ability to put this team on his back in the regular season or the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It'll be fun to see what he can do the rest of his career.
William Douglas, staff writer
My head says McDavid, but my gut says Matthews. At 22, Matthews has time on his side and the talent to score many more goals. Matthews' combination of size (6-foot-3, 220 pounds) and skating ability already makes him hard to stop. Imagine what happens when he reaches his prime. The Maple Leafs have other young scoring talent in Mitchell Marner and William Nylander who could help push Matthews toward 700 goals.
Video: TOR@PIT: Matthews blisters Nylander's pass top shelf
Mike Zeisberger, staff writer
When McDavid turned Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly inside out en route to a spectacular goal in a 6-4 victory at Scotiabank Arena Jan. 6, it left Wayne Gretzky in awe. "He brought me out of my seat," Gretzky told me, shaking his head in disbelief. Imagine that. If you can impress the leading scorer in NHL history like that, then I'm buying in too. McDavid has back-to-back seasons of 41 goals, but his long-term bid to one day score 700 cuts much deeper than just numbers. He's the fastest player in the League. He's the most talented. And he very well might be the smartest, judging by his no-look move on Rielly. Add it all up, and he's the logical choice.
Video: EDM@TOR: McDavid converts jaw-dropping goal
Mike G. Morreale, NHL.com staff writer
I'll go with one of the brightest young stars in the game in Vancouver Canucks center Elias Pettersson. The 21-year-old, who has 53 goals in 131 games, is top 15 among active NHL players with at least 100 games played in goals-per game (.40) and points-per game (.97), has topped 23 goals in each of his first two NHL seasons, and owns an 18.1 shooting percentage. He's big (6-2, 176), strong and keeps opposing goalies guessing with one of the most deceptive one-timers in the League. Pettersson, to me, is the next big star capable of stringing together a run of 40-goal seasons, as Ovechkin did in his quest to 700.
Nick Cotsonika, columnist
No one's going to pick Sidney Crosby? I know he has missed a lot of games because of injuries in his career, this season included, and staying healthy will be a determining factor, especially as he ages. But he has 458 goals already. He's 32 years old, in great shape, loves hockey and is dedicated to his craft. He'd have to average about 30 goals across eight seasons. He has played 32 games and scored 12 goals this season. But in the six seasons before this one, he never played fewer than 75 games and averaged 34.67 goals.
Tim Campbell, staff writer
With a nod to the reality that 700 goals may not be achievable for anyone in the League today, if there is a next one, it figures to be McDavid. He's at 158 goals at 23, so depending on how this season turns out, he'd need more than 40 goals per season for each of the next dozen years to be in the neighborhood. A recent interview with former teammate, Milan Lucic, convinces me. McDavid is hounded occasionally because he's unselfish and doesn't shoot enough. If he adopts a shoot-more attitude, Lucic said that 70-goal seasons would be no surprise for McDavid. He even mentioned 100-goal seasons, though said it was a bit of a stretch. Sounds preposterous. But who in the game is like McDavid?
Dan Rosen, senior writer
Everybody is saying it's going to be hard. Tim said it's possible no one in the League currently will hit 700 goals. I'm going one further and will outright say no one in the League currently will hit 700 goals. There are surely some great candidates. Matthews could hit 600 goals before he plays in 1,100 games. By comparison, Ovechkin got to 600 in 990 games. Stamkos, arguably the second-best goal scorer of his generation behind Ovechkin, may not reach 600 until his 1,150th game. McDavid would need more than 1,200 games at his pace to get to 600. Pastrnak needs almost nine more seasons of 50 goals to get to 600. But we aren't debating the next 600-goal scorer, are we? No, we are talking about the next to 700 and it won't happen. They won't have the time. The NHL is trending younger and that won't change. It's going to get harder eventually for anyone that chases 700. That it hasn't for Ovechkin is part of his legacy, part of what makes him a once-in-a-generation goal-scorer; the best ever. We will see more 600 goal scorers in the next 15 years or so. But 700? Don't think so.