WASHINGTON – Alexander Ovechkin joined an exclusive club with a hat trick Tuesday night. He becomes just the third player in NHL history to reach 800 goals.

Ovechkin only trails NHL legends Gordie Howe and Wayne Gretzky for the all-time record. The Washington Capitals captain needs just two tallies to pass Howe for second place and 95 to take over the all-time record.

“It’s a big number,” said Ovechkin via the Associated Press after Tuesday’s milestone. “It’s the best company (you can) ever imagine since you started playing hockey.”

Under a relatively clean bill of health, Ovechkin might only need a few more seasons to pass Gretzky’s all-time record. The Capitals have Ovechkin signed through the 2025-26 season, which accounts for exactly 297 more regular-season games he could play without injuries or season interruptions.

Without such setbacks, Ovechkin only needs to average one goal every three games to reach the record, well in reach given his career pace is nearly double that.

That said, the 37-year-old sniper has dealt with some obstacles in recent years that perhaps might have impeded his chase to the record. Since the NHL paused its 2019-20 season amid the COVID-19 season, Ovechkin has missed 16 games with minor injuries. Despite that and a rotating cast of core players, his 0.61 goals per game rate over the last three seasons isn’t much further behind his career norm.

If he can sustain his post-pandemic pace of scoring, he would only need 155 more games (or briefly into the 2024-25 campaign) to achieve the record. That gives him a margin of error of about one full season to try and eclipse Gretzky.

There are two other favorable trends that could lead Ovechkin to royalty. His hat trick last night gives him 20 goals in each of his 18 NHL seasons, and he’s had at least 30 in all but just one completed campaign, despite missing a small handful of games most years. Tuesday’s hat trick is also his 29th in NHL history, giving him about three every two seasons (roughly nine guaranteed goals alone).

In August 2021, gambling resource Odds Shark gave Ovechkin +200 odds for accomplishing the record and -300 odds for missing out on it. At that point, Ovechkin was coming off his lowest-scoring season (24 goals in 45 games) and just beginning a new five-year contract with the Capitals. A lot has changed since then, including a nice 50-goal boost last year, though these are the latest available odds in projecting Ovechkin’s push for the record.

In preparation for this piece, I asked about Ovechkin’s latest chase via Twitter and collected dozens of responses. Around 62% of people think he will attain the record, while 38% believe he might miss out.

Enjoy the ride while you can! Goal-record or not, Ovechkin has still put together one of the most decorated careers in NHL history. That includes a 2018 Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy, a Calder Trophy, an Art Ross Trophy, three Hart Memorial Trophies, three Ted Lindsay Awards and nine Maurice Richard Trophies.