Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin logged another milestone in his spectacular last 12 months when he became the NHL’s top-scoring Russian-born player on Tuesday night.
His first-period assist against the Vancouver Canucks was the 1,180th point of Oveckhin’s career, breaking his tie with Sergei Fedorov.
Fedorov, who finished his Hall of Fame career as Ovechkin’s teammate in Washington, played 1,248 NHL games. Ovechkin broke the Russian mark in Game 1055.
Ovechkin is very proud of his heritage. When the NHL had yet to commit to the 2014 Sochi Olympics, he said he planned to go regardless. The league eventually did send its players.
The NHL has had plenty of high-scoring Russian stars – including the versatile Fedorov, the speedy Pavel Bure, the puck wizard Pavel Datsyuk, the cerebral Igor Larionov, Alexander Mogilny (76-goal season), Evgeni Malkin, Alexei Kovalev and Ilya Kovalchuk – but Ovechkin has rocketed to the top with a combination of a wicked shot and bullish strength.
Fedorov, who won three Stanley Cups as part of the Detroit Red Wings’ Russian Five, had to defect from a tournament in 1990 to join the NHL. Ovechkin was the No. 1 overall pick in 2004, well after Russians were a key part of the league.
Ovechkin quickly established himself as a force to be reckoned with, scoring 52 goals and 106 points to win rookie of the year.
Two years later, he broke the NHL record for goals by a left wing, with 65, the first of his seven goal-scoring titles. He also picked up the first of his three Hart trophies as league MVP.
Last March, he scored his 600th goal, becoming the fourth NHL player to do so in fewer than 1,000 games.
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He followed up with the first Stanley Cup of his career in June. Often knocked for his playoff production, he scored a league-best 15 goals to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. He brought the Stanley Cup to Russia.
Then in August, he and his wife, Anastasia Shubskaya, welcomed their first child, Sergei, named after his late brother.
Ovechkin continues to produce at a high level at 33, leading the league with 37 goals.
And he holds a significant lead on his countrymen. Malkin, who’s a year younger, is nearly 200 points back. Tampa Bay Lightning star Nikita Kucherov, 25, is averaging about a point a game through his sixth season, but Ovechkin had 614 points through six seasons and Kucherov is at 414.
And with many younger players choosing to stay in the Kontinental Hockey League, Ovechkin could be the Russian standard-bearer for a long time.