Will Alexander Ovechkin Ever Slow Down?

With two consecutive hat tricks last week, Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals jumped into the NHL goal scoring lead with 29 goals in 32 games and also set a new career-best point streak of 14 straight contests. The Russian sniper has 17 goals and six assists during his hot stretch and is three games away from tying the franchise record of 17 straight outings with a point set by fellow winger Mike Gartner. With just one more tally this season Ovechkin will hit the 30-goal plateau for the 14th straight season since breaking into the league.

Most fans believe he’ll eventually slow down, but if he doesn’t he’s on pace to score 75 times in 2018/19. This is even more remarkable considering he’s 33 years old, which is more than a decade older than the current crop of young stars such as Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and Patrik Laine. Ovechkin’s previous best in goals was 65. He’s scored fewer than 40 in just three of his 13 full seasons which includes 32 goals in the 48-game campaign of 2012/13. He’s hit the 50-goal mark seven times and is also tied with Bobby Hull for leading the league in goals on seven occasions.

The two hat tricks last week give him 23 for his career which ranks 10th on the all time list. He’s also number nine in history for multi-goal games with 127. Wayne Gretzky leads the way in both categories with 50 career hat tricks and 189 multi-goal outings. Gretzky is also the all-time leader in goals scored with 894, followed by Gordie Howe at 801 and Jaromir Jagr with 766. As of December 17th Ovechkin had notched 636 regular-season goals to rank 15th and could realistically finish his career in third place all time. One record he should break in the next couple of years is Dave Andreychuk’s mark for 274 power-play goals as Ovechkin is just 37 behind with 237.

In addition, if The Great Eight manages to reach 50 goals again this season he’ll become the third-oldest NHL’er to achieve the feat behind Jaromir Jagr and Johnny Bucyk. But even though Ovechkin is lethal on the power-play with his patented one-timer from the left faceoff circle, he’s scored 21 of his 29 goals this season at even strength while his shooting percentage stands at 22.5. Scoring goals just comes naturally to the Capitals’ captain though as he banged in 52 as a rookie back in 2005/06 and took home the Calder Trophy and was named to the All-Rookie Team.

Ovechkin is simply one of the greatest players to ever skate on a hockey rink. He’s an 11-time All-Star and has been recognized for his greatness with 16 individual NHL awards. This included three Hart Trophies along with his seven Rocket Richard Awards. He enjoyed his finest season in 2007/08 when he took home the Art Ross, Hart, Lady Byng and Richard Trophies after scoring 65 goals and 47 helpers for 112 points. And let’s not forget he was last season’s Conn Smythe Trophy winner as the MVP of the playoffs for leading the Capitals to their first ever Stanley Cup.

Goaltenders simply have a difficult time stopping Ovechkin’s shot even though they know exactly when and where it’s coming from. This is probably because his shot has been clocked at more than 101 miles per hour in the past and it hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. He’s a very accurate shooter and if there are bodies in front of the net when he lets it go it’s almost for a goaltender to react quickly enough to stop it. Ovechkin isn’t slowing down either when it comes to his overall play. He’s still just as physical as he always was and his enthusiasm for the game hasn’t waned.

Even though he plays a reckless style, Ovechkin has been lucky enough to remain relatively healthy during his career due to his pure strength. It’s hard to predict how much longer he can keep it up, but don’t be surprised if he’s still filling the net five years from now and challenging Gretzky for the number one spot on the all-time goals list.

Ottawa Senators’ Thomas Chabot emerging as solid blue liner

When the Ottawa Senators traded former Norris Trophy-winner Erik Karlsson to the San Jose Sharks during the offseason many fans believed the club’s blue line would struggle offensively this season. That hasn’t been the case though. Yes, the defence corps may have a hard time in their own end most nights, but they’ve found an excellent replacement for Karlsson’s offensive skills in 21-year-old Thomas Chabot of Sainte-Marie, Quebec. As of December 10th, Chabot was leading all NHL defencemen in scoring with eight goals and 25 assists for 33 points in 31 games.

He’s on pace for over 20 goals and 85 points this season if he can keep it up and he’s also even in the plus/minus stats on a struggling team which was minus-17 overall. He’s been a huge surprise for the Senators and their fans considering he had played just 64 big league games prior to this season. He did show signs of things to come in those 64 games however with nine goals and 25 points in them. If Chabot should happen to reach the 90-point mark this season he’d become the first blue liner since 1993/94 to reach the milestone when hall of famer Ray Bourque achieved it.

Chabot was drafted by the Senators in 2015 with the 18th overall pick from Saint John of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He played junior hockey until the end of the 2016/17 campaign and posted 34 goals and 119 assists for 154 points in 202 regular-season contests with Saint John. He also chipped in with eight goals and 45 points in 40 playoff games, was a two-time All-Star, a playoff MVP and winner of the Defenceman of the Year Award in both the QMJHL and CHL as a youngster. He helped Saint John win a league championship in 2016/17 and earned an appearance in the Memorial Cup.

He also shone internationally in the 2016/17 World Junior Championships where he was named to the All-Star Team as well as being honoured with the MVP and Best Player Awards. He scored four goals and 10 points in seven outings as Canada finished fourth. The 6-foot-2-inch 195 lb rearguard then opened the 2017/18 campaign in the American Hockey League season with the Belleville Senators and posted two goals and seven points in 13 games before being called up by Ottawa for the remainder of the year.

But while Chabot has more or less been leading NHL defenceman in scoring for most of the current season, he may be an outsider when it comes to winning the James Norris Trophy as the league’s best blue liner. If he keeps the scoring pace up he should at least be one of the three finalists for the award, but he’s unlikely to win it. The main reason for this is the fact the Senators are likely to finish quite low in the league standings and miss the playoffs. If we look at the history of the Norris Trophy, which was first handed out for the 1953/54 season, we find not a single blue liner has won it while playing for a non-playoff squad.

The Senators started the season well, but have now fallen in the standings and also have to deal with injuries to two of their top forwards in Bobby Ryan and Matt Duchene. There’s also a possibility Duchene could be traded before the deadline since he’s a pending free agent at the end of the season. Of course, if Chabot is the top-scoring defenceman at the end of the season it’ll be almost impossible not to name him as a finalist for the Norris. He could also buck the trend and become the first rearguard in NHL history to win the award while not making the postseason. But the odds are he’ll have to reach break the 90-point barrier to do so.

Toronto Maple Leafs’ William Nylander Saga Finally Over

Toronto Maple Leafs fans can finally relax after the club and forward William Nylander reached a deal on December 1st just before the 5 pm deadline arrived. The 22-year-old put his signature on a new six-year contract that will pay him a total of $41.77 million over six years. If the two sides didn’t come to an agreement by the deadline Nylander would have been ineligible to play for any NHL team this season. The deal will take up just over $6.9 million a year in salary cap space. There’s no guarantee he’ll remain with the club though since the Leafs still have the option of trading him if they run into salary cap problems in the future.

That’s a possibility since general manager Kyle Dubas has several players who will become free agents at the end of the current season. These include two of the squad’s top performers in Mitchell Marner and Auston Matthews as well as promising youngsters Andreas Johnsson and Kasperi Kapanen as well as high-scoring veteran defenseman Jake Gardiner. Everybody, but Gardiner will be a restricted free agent while the blue liner will be an unrestricted free agent. With Marner and Matthews likely looking for somewhere close to $10 or $11 million each and Gardiner being worth $6 or $7 million on the open market it’s going to be tough for Dubas to keep everybody happy, especially with John Tavares already making $11 million a year.

Nylander’s contract may be front loaded and filled with bonuses, but it’s still going to take up just over $6.9 million in cap space each year. With Nylander rejoining the team the Leafs appear to be a legitimate Stanley Cup contender as they were sitting second in the league standings as of Dec. 3rd without him with a record of 19-8. Dubas had to shuffle the roster to make room for the youngster and instead of putting somebody on waivers or sending them the minors he traded winger Josh Leivo to the Vancouver Canucks for forward Michael Carcone on December 3rd.

The 25-year-old Leivo had four goals and two assists in 27 games this year with 14 goals and 14 assists in 84 career regular-season contests. The 22-year-old Carcone has been playing with the AHL’s Utica Comets and has six goals and 11 assists in 20 games this season with 26 goals and 36 assists in 149 career AHL outings. The debate over whether Nylander is worth $6.96 million dollars a year will still rage on though. He posted 61 points in both the 2016/17 and 2017/18 seasons and after 185 regular season games has 135 points. It’s true that Nylander played much of this time with Matthews as his centre, but it’s still Nylander who has to put the puck in the net.

He was one of the top-20 NHL players in five-on-five scoring last season and he averaged more points per minute played than star players such as Tavares, Vladimir Tarasenko and Sidney Crosby. Nylander has already missed 27 games this season, but should soon be ready for action as he’s been skating and working out in Sweden. Nylander will need to produce at the same pace though or he could still be traded. The Leafs have shown they can win without him and would still like some help on the blue line. If Nylander is shipped out it would also free up some cap space for Gardiner or another top-two defenceman.