Only eight guys in NHL history have scored 700 career goals, but if there’s a bet to be made on who’s next it has to be Patrik Laine.
On Saturday, Alex Ovechkin became the eighth player in NHL history to reach 700 career goals. Projections on when he might pass Wayne Gretzky (894 goals) for the all-time lead are out there, but the broader and more interesting question might be who could be next to get to 700 goals. With that, I offer Patrik Laine.
As a nice jumping off point, Sam McCraig of The Hockey News put together a list of some current prolific scorers in the NHL with a diagnosis of their chance to get 700 goals. Current age works against quite a few guys, to say nothing of a required uptick in current scoring pace to realistically get to 700. In a lot of cases, 600 career goals will be a challenge.
Laine had 80 goals over his first two NHL seasons (155 games) as a teenager, and entering Tuesday he has 56 goals over the last two seasons (144 games). On a per-game basis he has more shot attempts and shots on goal this year than he did in 2018-19, with nearly the same shooting percentage as he has already set a career-high with 33 assists.
Laine won’t turn 22 until April 19. Let’s book him to reach 30 goals this year (26 right now), which would put him at exactly 140 career goals. Ten 40-goal seasons would put him at 540 at age-32. Anything over 30 by the end of this year, or over 40 in the next 10 (however optimistically on the latter front) would push him toward 550 career goals by the time he’s 32-years-old. Go out four more years and tab 100 more goals, and he’s in the neighborhood of 650 career goals at age 36.
In his first two seasons, Laine posted shooting percentages of 17.6 and 18.3 before that rate fell to 12.2 and 12.1 in the last two seasons respectively. Somewhere in between (15 percent?), might be where he’ll settle in regularly over the upcoming years. So averaging 40 goals as season might not be as unrealistic as it seems, and a couple runs at 50 goals wouldn’t be out of the question. Health-permitting, of course.
It’s incredibly unlikely anyone we are now seeing gets to 700 goals in the next 15 years or so. But with a combination of youth, sniper-like scoring ability and a body type (6-foot-5, 206 pounds) that should help him withstand physical pounding, Laine is a worthy long shot bet to keep an eye on in the pursuit of that elite company.
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