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Alex Ovechkin drops to No. 17 in NHL Top 50 players list originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
Alex Ovechkin is arguably the best goal scorer of his generation, ranking as the sixth-best goal scorer in NHL history.
Yet when NHL Network released numbers 11-20 of their Top 50 players countdown for the 2021-22 season on Sunday, he was number 17.
— NHL (@NHL) September 20, 2021
NHL Network researchers, producers and on-air personalities determine who makes their annual list of the top 50 players in the league. After being ranked fifth in 2018, sixth in 2019 and eighth on last year’s list, falling nine spots this year is a big drop for such a prolific player as Ovechkin.
Ovechkin joins John Carlson as the only two Capitals players on the list so far. Carlson came in at No. 36.
In the 11-20 player rankings for the upcoming season, Ovechkin fell behind Mikko Rantanen, Colorado Avalanche; Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers; Brayden Point, Tampa Bay Lightning; Cale Makar, Avalanche; David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins; and Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks.
Of those players, only Kane – fifth in 2019 – and Pastrnak – sixth in 2020 – have ranked higher than Ovechkin in the past three years (numbers 1-10 have not yet been released).
Ovechkin led the Capitals with 24 goals in 45 games, even though he missed 11 games due to COVID-19 protocols in January and a leg injury in April. Despite the hurdles of a compacted season, he still passed Mike Gartner and later Phil Esposito to take sixth place on the NHL's all-time leading goalscorers list and finished the year with 18 assists and 42 points.
At 730 career goals, he is one goal away from tying Marcel Dionne for fifth all-time.
“I think Ovi goes for that, he gets that [goals] record,” NHL Network analyst Mike Rupp said of the Capitals captain. “Even today, this guy is the best pure goal scorer our game has ever seen.
“This guy, he’s different, “Rupp continued. “… He’s so good at just getting the puck on net, getting it on net quickly and it usually turns into a goal.”
Several factors could have brought the drop in Ovechkin’s ranking. The COVID-shortened 2021 season was the first time in his career that he didn’t score at least 30 goals and the first time since the 2016-17 season that he didn’t lead the league in goals. It also marked the third year in a row that the Capitals have exited in the first round of the playoffs.
As NHL Network analyst Ken Daneyko said in last year's rankings, "[h]e continues to get older, but he continues to do what he does best."
Now, with a full 82-game schedule this season, Ovechkin will have a good chance to do what he does best: being Gr8.