Probably the most intriguing matchup on Thursday’s NHL schedule will be taking place in Edmonton where the Oilers will be hosting the Washington Capitals.
Not only are both teams off to great starts and at the top of the league standings, but the individual talent on display is also going to be incredible.
Let’s just go right on down the list…
- Connor McDavid is the league’s most dominant offensive player and looks to be headed for his fourth consecutive 100-point season, something that is almost unprecedented in modern NHL history.
- Alex Ovechkin is still the most feared goal-scorer in the league and is on track to reach the 700-goal milestone for his career at some point this season.
- John Carlson is off to one of the best starts ever for a defender and enters the game as the league’s leading point-producer.
- Between all of them and Leon Draisaitl four of the top-10 scorers in the league (including three of the top-four) will be on the same ice Thursday night.
- And that does not even take into account Edmonton’s James Neal who is currently second in the league with nine goals scored.
So there is a lot happening here tonight.
But it is the Ovechkin-Draisaitl aspect of this that makes it such a rare matchup.
The two players finished last season as the top-two goal-scorers in the league, each topping the 50-goal mark. Ovechkin scoring 50 goals was not a shock because it has been a regular occurrence for him throughout his career. For the better part of the past decade it has been almost unheard of for anyone else in the league to top that mark. Only 15 different players have done it over the past 20 years, and because of that it has been extremely rare for a pair of 50-goal scorers from the previous year to face off in a head-to-head matchup.
Thursday’s game in Edmonton will be the first time it has happened since the 2012-13 season when Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin (50 goals during the 2011-12 season) faced Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos (61 goals during the 2011-12 season).
Before that you have to go back to the 2010-11 season when there were three players (Ovechkin, Stamkos, and Sidney Crosby) all coming off of 50-goal seasons the year before. Crosby and Ovechkin faced each other twice that year head-to-head, while Crosby and Stamkos faced off three times. Ovechkin and Stamkos played each other six times.
And those are the only instances over the past 12 years.
Given the way they have produced so far both Ovechkin and Draisaitl are scoring goals at a pace that could help them once again challenge the 50-goal mark. With seven goals in his first 11 games Ovechkin is on a 52-goal pace, while Draisaitl is currently on a 49-goal pace. There was always a chance he could regress a bit because he had such an insanely high shooting percentage a year ago, but his 17.1 mark so far this season is fairly close to his normal career average. He and McDavid help form one of the best top-lines in the league and should be a force for the Oilers all year, providing some hope the team will be able to maintain its fast start.
Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.