Russia's Alexander Ovechkin is one of the best hockey players to ever play the game.
Selected first overall by the Washington Capitals in the 2004 entry draft, Ovechkin quickly became one of the NHL's top players and one of the elite scorers the game has ever seen. The 6'3", 230-pound winger from Moscow is one of the most versatile forwards in hockey. Ovechkin uses his big frame to punish opposing players on both sides of the ice, his one-of-a-kind hands to find space and deke past the best defenders, and a world-class shot that has found the back of the net a league-leading 525 times since his NHL debut in 2005. He's led the league in goals in six out of his 11 seasons, including the last four consecutive, and is coming off his third straight 50-goal campaign.
Ovechkin, who turned 31 on Sept. 17, has earned nearly every important individual accolade possible throughout his Hall-of Fame career. He's one of the game's truly special talents, and we wrote last year about how important it was to start appreciating his dominance before it's too late.
In terms of individual accomplishments, there's perhaps no one in the league with a more impressive résumé. Let's take a look:
- Calder Trophy (2006)
- 3-time Hart Trophy winner (2008, 2009, 2013)
- 3-time Ted Lindsay Award winner (2008, 2009, 2010)
- Art Ross Trophy (2008)
- 6-time Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy winner (2008, 2009, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016)
- 7 First All-Star Team selections (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2015)
Ovechkin has been the captain of the Capitals since 2010 and a central component of three Russian Olympic teams. But despite all the accolades and achievements he's accumulated on his way to becoming an all-time great, in this championship-fueled world of sports the Russian superstar's bio is missing something significant: Ovechkin has never won a Stanley Cup nor has he won an Olympic medal with Team Russia, which rightly or wrongly will be something that hangs over him until he's able to come out on top.
It's unfortunate that Ovechkin's reputation takes a hit by the fact that he is yet to win something big, but it is the harsh reality in the world of sports. As much as personal records matter, athletes are also judged by the amount of championships they've won or at least gotten close to winning. And that's across all sports—as great as NBA forward Charles Barkley to NFL legend Dan Marino and baseball Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. were, we all know they never won anything. A championship-less résumé is something people remember.
Ovechkin has never led the Capitals past the second round of the playoffs, despite leading the team to Presidents' Trophies in 2010 and 2016, and being the franchise leader in goals and points. Ovechkin has also been unable to win any important tournament with Team Russia, failing to medal in the 2006, 2010, and 2014 Olympics, which is why winning the 2016 World Cup of Hockey—a long shot, to be sure—would mean more to Ovechkin than perhaps any other player in the world.
Sure, the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto may be the NHL's gimmicky replacement for the Olympics, but at the end of the day it's a best-on-best tournament featuring six of the most talented hockey nations in the world and two mixed teams filled with stars.
In Team Russia's first game, down 2-0 to Sweden, Ovechkin single-handedly led a late comeback that ultimately fell just short when the winger's goal was disallowed due to him punching in the puck. Desperate to win its second contest, Russia barely held on to defeat the young guns of Team North America 4-3. Ovechkin had an assist in what was a thrilling game.
On Thursday, Team Russia will face Finland, Group B's last-place team, for a chance to advance to the tournament semifinal. You can bet Russia's captain will be all over the ice for the remainder of the tournament, doing anything he can to help Russia win its first legitimate international tournament since capturing the 2002 Olympic bronze. (Ovechkin has won three world championships, but the tournament doesn't stack up and is watered down due to overlapping with the NHL playoffs.)
There is no questioning Ovechkin's talent, but without a major championship his name will always have somewhat of an asterisk beside it in the hockey history books. It may not be an Olympic gold or a Stanley Cup, but at this point in Ovechkin's championship-less career, winning the World Cup of Hockey might be just enough.
[Update: Russia beat Finland 3-0 and will play Canada in the semis Saturday night.]
For more World Cup of Hockey stories, check out our full coverage here.