The NHL is gradually wrapping up offseason mode and slowly inching toward new season mode, with most of the player pool signed and 2022-23 training camps just a few weeks out.
As the hockey world’s thinking shifts to pondering the coming season, what milestone moments should we have on our radar? It shapes up to be a memorable year for the record books. Here are some benchmarks to watch in 2022-23.
Alex Ovechkin: 800 GOALS and 802 GOALS
Ovechkin continued to defy time in his age-36 season, becoming the third player in NHL history to record nine 50-goal campaigns, equaling the record shared by Wayne Gretzky and the late Mike Bossy. During his 2022-23 scoring binge, Ovie jumped from 730 to 780 career goals, passing Marcel Dionne (731), Brett Hull (741) and Jaromir Jagr (766) to finish the season at No. 3 on the all-time leaderboard.
Only Gretzky (894) and Gordie Howe (801) stand in Ovechkin’s way for goal G.O.A.T. status, and he will almost certainly leapfrog Mr. Hockey this season. Ovechkin’s 20th goal of 2022-23 will make him hockey’s third 800-goal scorer. His 22nd goal will be No. 802 and vault him ahead of Howe. Gretzky’s mark will remain safe for at least two more seasons. Even back-to-back 50-goal efforts as best-case scenarios in Ovechkin’s age-37 and age-38 years would still leave him trailing The Great One by 14 goals.
Phil Kessel: IRONMAN RECORD
Keith Yandle’s reign as the NHL’s all-time ironman will likely prove very short. He broke Doug Jarvis’ record of 964 in January and then, after being unceremoniously scratched by the Philadelphia Flyers for an April game, ended his streak at 989.
That came with Kessel in hot pursuit – buoyed by a controversial “continuation” of his own streak that occurred when he played a single shift in a March 9 game before flying home for the birth of his son. He ended the season having played 982 consecutive games, so he needs just eight more in a row to set the new ironman standard – the Kessel run, for you Star Wars fans. Kessel is unsigned at the moment, but some team will surely give him a shot to continue his career at 34. He’s still young enough to augment a team’s offense in a depth role. Expect him to find a team in the next few weeks and prepare to break Yandle’s mark this fall, health-permitting.
Marc-Andre Fleury: 552 WINS
Fleury’s decision to re-sign with the Minnesota Wild, a Stanley Cup contender at best and a solid playoff contender at worst, bodes well for his continued ascension up the goaltending wins list. Fleury’s 520 victories place him third all time, 31 behind Patrick Roy for second. Could we get a 32-win campaign from Flower? He has a shot. He has nine seasons of 30 or more wins to his name. Only one of them came in the last five years, but that was partially the product of (a) sharing the net with viable 1B Robin Lehner in Vegas and (b) starting last season playing for a bad Chicago Blackhawks team on which wins were hard to get. With the Wild trading Cam Talbot to the Ottawa Senators, Fleury has his strongest grip on a starting job in years, so he has a real shot to win 32 or more this season.
Steven Stamkos: 500 GOALS
Even just a couple seasons ago, Stamkos’ career was sliding toward “what could have been” status. Now he’s solidly back on a Hall of Fame track. He stayed healthy enough to get a career-high 106 points last season, he’s a two-time Stanley Cup champion and he’s a near lock to join the 500-goal club in 2022-23. He’s at 481, so a 19-goal season would be enough to make him the 47th member.
Patrice Bergeron, Steven Stamkos & Phil Kessel: 1,000 POINTS
Bergeron already punched his imaginary Hall of Fame ticket long ago. Winning a record fifth Selke Trophy last season all but clinched it. Still, adding the 1,000 points would give his resume a nice symmetry. Had he retired this summer, he would’ve left 982 points on the board. Why not breeze into quadruple digits this season?
Bergeron needs just 18 points and will make it to 1,000 along with Stamkos, who only needs 28 points. Kessel could reach 1,000, too, with a 44-point season, which feels attainable depending on his landing spot and role.
Other players who could reach 1,000 points this season if they have big years: Joe Pavelski (924) and Claude Giroux (923), who need 76 and 77 points, respectively.
The Connor McDavid category
McDavid isn’t on track to hit any classic statistical benchmark this season but should still accomplish some astounding feats. Last season, he became the sixth-fastest player to hit 1,000 points. With three points in his first nine games, he’ll be the sixth-fastest to 700, too, and a 103-point season by game 60 would jump him ahead of Jari Kurri to become the fifth fastest to reach 800 points.
If McDavid wins the Art Ross Trophy this season, he’ll become the sixth player to do it five times and the second-youngest to win five Art Rosses, trailing only Gretzky.
The Auston Matthews category
Matthews’ torrid goal-scoring pace and consecutive Rocket Richard Trophies put him in contention to join some elite “fastest” and “youngest” company of his own. He sits at 259 goals in 407 games, so he should reach 300 this season. Depending on how many games he takes to get goal No. 41, Matthews could end up the sixth-fastest (Teemu Selanne, 464) or the seventh (Ovechkin, 473).
Turning 25 in September, Matthews would become one of the four or five youngest to reach 300 goals, landing somewhere between Bossy (25 years, 60 days) Steve Yzerman (25, 176) and Ovechkin (25,200).
Joe Thornton: 1,780 GAMES
It’s more far-fetched than it may seem. Thornton only needs 66 games to catch his buddy Patrick Marleau for the all-time mark, but 66 is a tall order for Jumbo, 43 years old, who is hanging by a thread. He’s played 78 games in the past two seasons combined and was a healthy scratch for the Florida Panthers in the playoffs for all but one game last year. He’s more likely to retire than break Marleau’s record.
Other Milestones to watch in 2022-23…
– Paul Maurice and Lindy Ruff: 800 coaching wins
– Patrick Kane and Evgeni Malkin: 1,200 points
– Phil Kessel and John Tavares: 400 goals
– John Tavares, Blake Wheeler and Corey Perry: 900 points
– Jaroslav Halak: 300 wins (Braden Holtby has 299 but is not expected to play this season)