After Ovechkin who could be next for 700 goals?

Adam Gretz
NBC Sports

GR8NESS: OVI’S CHASE FOR 700: As Alex Ovechkin approaches 700 career NHL goals, PHT is going to examine all aspects of his goal-scoring prowess. We’ll break down and provide context for his amazing stats, project if he can top Wayne Gretzky’s record of 894, and take a look at his most important goals.

Alex Ovechkin gets his next shot at reaching the 700-goal mark on Thursday night when the Washington Capitals visit the Colorado Avalanche in what could be a potential Stanley Cup Final preview.

Scoring 700 goals is obviously significant because it’s only been done by seven other players in league history (Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe, Jaromir Jagr, Brett Hull, Marcel Dionne, Phil Esposito, and Mike Gartner).

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It takes a nearly impossible combination of elite, Hall of Fame talent to be that sort of impact goal scorer, as well as the durability and good fortune to remain healthy and play long enough in the NHL to compile that many goals.

After Ovechkin reaches the mark, it may be a long time before we see another player hit the 700-goal mark.

Even 600  goals seems like it could be a long way off from happening again.

Here, we take a look at the top-16 active goal scoring leaders in the NHL after Ovechkin and how far away they are from the two milestones.

San Jose Sharks forward Patrick Marleau is the next closest player to 600, but his age and current goal scoring pace (15 goals per 82 games the past two years) make even that seem like an impossible task. He would need to maintain his current pace for another two full seasons (taking him through his age 42 season) after this one to reach it.

After that, who else here has a realistic shot?

[MORE: Ovechkin’s chase for 700th goal continues Thursday on NBCSN]

Ilya Kovalchuk, Eric Staal, Joe Thornton, Zach Parise, Jeff Carter, Corey Perry, Phil Kessel, Joe Pavelski, and Patrice Bergeron are probably out due to their ages and the number of goals still standing between them.

Sidney Crosby would still seem to have a track to 600, but he would need to average 30 goals per season for the next eight years to reach 700. He is a legend and one of the best all-time players, but that is asking way too much. Injuries taking out so much of his prime will keep him from joining that club. The same is probably true for his Pittsburgh teammate Evgeni Malkin, as well as Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos (both of whom would need to average at least 30 goals over the next seasons). Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and John Tavares are the other three youngest players on the list, and even they would need to average 30 goals per season over the next seven-eight years to hit the 600-mark.

This is what makes Ovechkin’s pursuit of the mark — as well as Wayne Gretzky’s all-time goal record — so impressive. He has not only been the most dominant and consistent goal scorer in the league, but he has to this point remained remarkably healthy.

The next 600-or 700-club member is probably in the next wave of NHL superstars: The group of Connor McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon, David Pastrnak, Leon Draisaitl, Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, and Jack Eichel.

Here is where they are right now.

In terms of the number of goals MacKinnon is the closest out of this group, but he is also the oldest. It took him a few years to become the superstar offensive force that he is now, but he is one of the league’s best.

Pastrnak, McDavid and Matthews are all on the right trajectory given their age, production, and long-term upside. But even they have a huge path ahead of them that is going to require consistent production and, most importantly, the good fortune to avoid injury and remain on the ice.

It is possible that one or two players on that list could do it, but we are probably more than a decade (or more) away from actually seeing it. If it even happens for any of them.

Thursday night’s coverage of Capitals-Avalanche (9:30 p.m. ET) will be the second half of an NHL doubleheader on NBCSN, immediately following originally-scheduled coverage of Flyers-Panthers, which begins at 7 p.m. ET. Pre-game coverage at 6 p.m. ET with NHL Live.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

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