At age 36, Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin is off to the best start of his 17-year NHL career. Through just 15 games, he’s made history three times and is third in NHL scoring with 12 goals and 26 points, trailing only Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid, who are both under 26.
Whether it be one of the Capitals’ first-year players or a veteran who’s been along for the ride for a bit, Ovechkin’s teammates continue to be impressed with his production.
“I can’t give away any of his secrets,” Tom Wilson laughed. “I just see like a guy that is so unique and probably the best I’ve ever seen at just like, not being stopped and going out there and doing whatever it takes to get done. I’ve said it kind of a few times this year, like, he just becomes more and more motivated and gets hungrier and hungrier. [He’s] one of the most competitive guys I’ve ever met. He wants to score goals and wants to be the greatest of all time. He’s up there.”
Ovechkin is now up to 742 red lights, passing Brett Hull for fourth on the NHL’s all-time goals list. In Washington’s season opener, he passed Marcel Dionne for fifth.
As the schedule progresses, Ovechkin continues to add more to his game and grow his skill-set, while also finding new ways to score.
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None of his goals this season have come off his famous one-timer from the office. Instead, he’s using his size and speed to get on pucks for rebounds, get to the front of the net for deflections and get to open areas to unleash his wicked shot.
“Yeah, I think 5-on-5 this year, he’s been great. He’s been scoring a lot of 5-on-5… he’s finding a bunch of different ways to score and you know, that’s what the greatest goal scorer ever up there can do,” Wilson explained. “He just finds the back of the net. Guys that come here for a little bit and watch him play, even in practice or in games are like, ‘Holy smokes, he just finds ways to score.'”
The Capitals’ young players, the ones who had his jersey growing up, not only look to Ovechkin as a star, but a mentor.
“I do catch myself watching him take one-timers in practice,” Connor McMichael noted. “It’s just really cool to see and be around him every day. So you kind of try and take things from his game, but it’s kind of hard to for sure.”
“I’m convinced he’s not a human being,” Hendrix Lapierre told TVA Sports. “At 36, he continues to be an exceptional player. There’s a reason he’s one of the best snipers in NHL history. To have been able to hang out with him on a daily basis and see his zest for life is really special.”
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Ovechkin has also been outstanding in other aspects beyond goal-scoring as he helps power the Capitals’ top line with Wilson and Evgeny Kuznetsov. He is winning puck battles, making smart passes and reading the ice well. The Russian recently hit 600 career assists and has 14 assists this season, including eight in his last four games.
“I think our line play solid. Sometimes we have ups and downs, but if you look at when we skating, when we are moving our legs, we are generating a lot of scoring chances and it is fun to play,” Ovechkin said. “I think when the season starts at a certain time, you prepare yourself for the year and it help you get in a good shape. I think last year, kind of a weird year, all the protocols and all the, I don’t want to say a bad word, but all the situation, it is kind of frustrating, but it is what it is. Most important thing is everyone to be healthy and just right now, we enjoy it.”
His performance in early November, which included two historic strikes, six assists and a pizza delivery, earned him first-star honors, and he’s ready to keep the momentum going.
“He’s always a guy like every single night for 15 years he’s the guy that supposed to score three goals every night. He’s the guy who’s supposed to carry the team, he’s a superstar. I don’t know if you can nitpick and say like one year is a little better than others,” Wilson explained. “He’s amazing this year, he’s been amazing for 15 years, and I think he just wants to keep going. He’s been finding the net like crazy and I think he’s putting in the work. That’s what we’re getting 100 percent.”