Last night Sidney Crosby joined about as elite company as it gets, becoming the third youngest player in NHL history to hit 500 points behind two nobodies named Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux.
The only players younger than Crosby (22 years, 244 days) to hit the 500-point mark faster were Wayne Gretzky (21 years, 52 days) and former Penguins star Mario Lemieux (22 years, 172 days).
Condemn me for being a hockey lab rat if you want to, but I couldn’t help but wonder where Alex Ovechkin fits into this whole picture (and Evgeni Malkin too). There’s an inherent danger to such context-sensitive stats though as Ovechkin came into the league as an older player (the lockout shelved what may have been his real rookie year). In other words, Ovechkin (and Malkin, actually) debuted later in life so they didn’t have as good of a chance to hit that very specific milestone as Crosby. (Conversely, when people make their hasty comparisons, they often forget the fact that Crosby is indeed quite a bit younger than his Russian peers. It’s funny that people are so eager to judge these players before they even hit age 25.)
Anyway, I wanted to find out how Ovechkin, Crosby and other young players have been doing since the lockout. I decided to narrow the spotlight onto the highest scoring forwards and to make the cut-off point the Ovechkin/Malkin 2004 Entry Draft. Since certain players have obviously played less than others (like Steven Stamkos, who is in only his second season compared to Crosby and Ovechkin’s fifth), I sorted the list by points per game. Check it out below and note the paper-thin margin between Crosby and Ovechkin – not to mention the fact that Malkin and Nicklas Backstrom round out the top four. (One other note: these are regular season only, just to keep things simple. Ovechkin trumps Crosby in playoff points per game, for what it’s worth.)
Now, naturally, points don’t mean everything. Players such as Jonathan Toews bring other skills to the table. And obviously there are some only-slightly older players with some impressive point paces too. Still, it’s nice to see that for all the flak the NHL receives for promoting Crosby and Ovechkin, at least the two tend to show up when it matters – whether that’s in trophy voting, scoring lists or (most importantly) the playoffs.