If Wayne Gretzky never scored a single goal, he would still be the NHLThe all-time scoring leader with 1,963 points.

It’s one of the most incredible statistics in all of sports, one that best exemplifies the greatness of The Great One. But greatness is generational, and the time is drawing near for one of hockey’s greatest facts to become fiction.

Gretzky is the only player in hockey history to accumulate more than 2,000 points, but it’s starting to look more than possible that he may finally have some company in the not too distant future. With each passing game of pure offensive dominance, Connor McDavid he seems hungry to one day join Gretzky at the top of hockey’s scoring pantheon.

It is still extremely early. extremely early. McDavid isn’t even halfway there yet, currently with 774 points in 529 games. But he’s climbing extremely quickly with 77 of those points this season…in just 42 games. McDavid is on an incredible 150-point pace, a feat not seen since Mario Lemieux in 1995-96, and his scoring seems no fluke. Not after he scored 33 points in 16 playoff games last spring and not after he scored 105 points in 56 games during the pandemic-shortened 2020-21 season.

Since January 2021, McDavid has scored 342 points in just 198 games, regular season and playoffs combined. It’s almost two and a half seasons of hockey in which he averaged a pace of 142 points. That’s the true level of his talent and it has altered his future trajectory to the point where one of hockey’s rare milestones genuinely feels within reach.

Can Connor McDavid be the first player since Wayne Gretzky to score over 2,000 points? Yes, he can.

Again, it’s too early for an exercise like this. Anything can happen and we don’t have a crystal ball to see exactly what the future holds. But why not have a little fun? For the sake of a fun little science experiment, we can still make a guess based on what McDavid has done to date combined with how players typically age.

It’s an experiment I’ve done in the past to Alex Ovechkin’s quest to break the all-time goalscoring record. More recently I have done the same exercise with Auston Matthews for our NHL99 series since his goalscoring progress followed a path similar to that of Ovechkin (until the fall of 25 years).

Now it’s McDavid’s turn. Here are the math.

McDavid is currently projected to finish the 2022-23 season with 148 points; 71 more than he currently has. That means after this season he should be sitting somewhere around 845, almost halfway there. That’s the easy projection to do. The much more difficult one is projecting the next decade (or more) of McDavid’s career.

Going that far into the future will create much more room for error. Expect a smooth, steady curve, one that ignores any potential ebb and flow in McDavid’s trajectory, long-term injuries, lockouts (ugh), changing goal-scoring environments, and anything else that could alter McDavid’s production path. . We don’t know exactly how McDavid will age, but it’s possible to estimate using a standard age curve (one that McDavid will likely outshine anyway).

Here’s what we get each season if we do that with McDavid expecting to play roughly 80 games a season, the rate he’s averaged since his rookie year.

For five straight seasons, McDavid has scored at a rate of 120 points or more. He is expected to maintain that level for another five seasons after this one, right up until he is 30 years old. After that, the age curve usually starts to pick up, where McDavid probably only has two or three more years above a 100-point pace.

Still, that’s a long time at that level of production and it’s what makes 2,000 points possible. More than possible. This exercise suggests that McDavid can still be a 100-point scorer even in his mid-30s, which is obviously weird, but not that far-fetched for someone who’s already one of the greatest players of all time. sidney crosby, now 35, scored at that rate last season and is maintaining that rate this season. It’s definitely doable for McDavid and this projection is actually conservative, pegging McDavid as “only” a points-per-game player at age 35. If he can keep producing him like Crosby has, the sky really is the limit. This forecast could even be conservative.

If McDavid can more or less stay on that path and play into his 40s, he would finish his career with 2,237 points: 834 goals and 1,403 assists. He hit 2,000 sometime during his age-36 season, right around his 37th birthday. That’s a sizeable cushion that gives McDavid plenty of headroom to reach into the thin air.

Here’s what your trajectory would look like with expected years tagged for major milestones.

McDavid is on pace to break 1,000 points before his 27th birthday, somewhere around the 660-game mark. That would make him fourth fastest to 1,000 points behind Gretzky (424), Lemieux (513) and Mike Bossy (656). There is a very real possibility that McDavid could be third fastest and should comfortably land in the top five with Jarri Kurri currently holding that spot at 716 games.

Getting to 1,000 so quickly is what gives McDavid ample opportunity to hit the next few milestones. He should hit 1,500 before his 1,000th game of his age-30 season, leaving plenty of room for the final 500 points. The math is very much in McDavid’s favor.

But it takes more than math and projection to break milestones and there’s a reason no one else has gotten there. McDavid is a generational icon, but the NHL is a grind where nothing is given. Health is a huge factor in determining where McDavid lands once the dust settles on his illustrious career, and health is far from a guarantee.

To date, McDavid has been remarkably healthy, missing very few games since a freak accident in his rookie season. Staying healthy during his prime has given him a considerable advantage in the chase for scoring brackets, but he must continue for another decade for all of this to be possible. In good health (and no league stoppages), Crosby would likely have been the second to join the 2,000-point club, since he missed roughly 350 points in the prime of his career.

McDavid has been much more fortunate on that front and has also been more fortunate when it comes to the scoring environment. The NHL has experienced an offensive boom in the last five years coinciding with McDavid’s peak years. It’s a trade Crosby never benefited from and it gives McDavid extra cushion for his career totals.

There are many external factors that make 2000 points possible for McDavid, but at the end of the day the most important factor is him.

He is that guy. He is the best player in the world and he is already one of the best players of all time. He has a talent for making something that feels almost inconceivable feel not just possible, but probable.

When all is said and done, McDavid should be the second player in the NHL to 2,000 points. He’ll need a bit of luck on his side to get there, but with his tendency, it seems a matter of when, not if. He enjoys greatness.

(Image: Sergei Belski/USA Today)

By sbavh

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