Alex Ovechkin is coming off back-to-back Maurice Rocket Richard winning seasons under Head Coach Adam Oates. With Barry Trotz behind the bench, the question is, can he do it again? Ovechkin would be the first player to win the Maurice Rocket Richard Trophy three times in a row and the first player to lead the league in goals three times in a row since Brett Hull from 1989-1992. In fact only five players in the history of the NHL have ever accomplished this feat: Brett Hull, Wayne Gretzky, Phil Esposito, Bobby Hull, and Gordie Howe. That is some elite company to be mentioned with.
There are some concerns going into the season that could prevent Ovechkin from going for the threepeat.
What position will Ovechkin play? Ovechkin’s most successful seasons have been at left wing, but he has found new success at right wing. Trotz plans to keep Ovechkin at right wing to start the season, so it will be interesting to see how it plays out.
Who will play left wing with Ovechkin and Backstrom? Niklas Backstrom is an all-world center and one of the best playmakers in the NHL. His chemistry with Ovechkin is undeniable. In the past, Mike Knuble and brief stints of Alex Semin have made them one of the best lines in hockey. However, they have not been able to find a left winger to play with them on the current roster. Marcus Johannson has had some success, but he doesn’t have the offensive skills or finishing abilities to play with them over the course of an entire season. Some darkhorse candidates are Evgeny Kuznetsov or even Andre Burakovsky. Either one would has the skill to play with them, but lack the experience.
How will the powerplay do under Trotz? Oates’ biggest success as a Head Coach was his ability to get the powerplay to work. The Capitals operated at a 23.4% which was tied with Pittsburgh for best in the league. Ovechkin had 24 powerplay goals which was 8 more than any other player in the NHL. OV will probably need 20 ppgs to lead the NHL again.
How will other stars from around the NHL fare? Steven Stamkos is Ovechkin’s biggest threat, scoring 60 goals three seasons ago. After missing a good chunk of last year, he will be hungry on an up and coming Tampa team. Sidney Crosby is always a threat as well. Under new coach Mike Johnston, he will be looking to have a big year. Corey Perry also has a Rocket Richard on his resume. Tyler Seguin, Phil Kessel, Max Pacioretty, John Tavares, Jeff Carter, Marian Gaborik, and Nathan MacKinnon are some outside candidates.
Ovechkin will already go down as the best goal scorer of his generation. With a 3rd straight Rocket, he will start to enter the discussion for best of all time. It would be his 5th time leading the league in goals which only six players have done. Ovechkin needs 51 goals this season to enter the top 50 on the all time list at age 29. Eight more seasons at a 35 goal pace gives Ovechkin 700 and puts him in the top 10 all time. Impressive considering the era he played in and even more impressive considering he missed more than 100 NHL games in his prime years due to the lockouts.