Red-hot Laine catches up to Ovechkin in goal-scoring race

When the Winnipeg Jets drafted Patrik Laine second overall in 2016, they added a player many thought would eventually lead the NHL in goal-scoring, but few figured it would only take him two seasons. Laine’s production has exploded over the last couple months, launching him into a tie with Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin for the most goals in the league. Ovechkin and Laine both have 43 goals with 10 games remaining, and at the rate they score, a 50-goal season is not out of the question.

Laine leads the league with 21 goals since the All-Star break, and he has scored 12 times through nine games in March, including his fourth career hat trick in a win over the New York Rangers. His prolific scoring is a big reason for Winnipeg’s position near the top of the Central Division with one of the strongest offenses in the Western Conference. What makes Laine’s goal total even more remarkable is his shooting percentage, which seems unsustainable at over 20 percent, but he shot 17.6 percent as a rookie, so he could just be incredibly efficient.

Ovechkin leads the league with 305 shots on goal, which is a familiar position for him. He scored his 600th career goal in a win over the Jets on March 12, becoming the 20th player in NHL history to reach that milestone. Considering where he is in his career, it’s not unreasonable to expect at least 200 more goals from Ovechkin, which would put him with Wayne Gretzky and Gordie Howe as the only players to score at least 800. The Capitals rely on Ovechkin’s production even more than Winnipeg leans on Laine, and Ovechkin will need to keep scoring to close out the season if Washington hopes to maintain its spot atop the Metropolitan Division.

Laine grew up idolizing Ovechkin, and now he has the chance to best his idol in only his second NHL season. For hockey fans, the duel between Laine and Ovechkin provides a rare opportunity to see two generational goal-scoring talents competing for the Maurice Richard Trophy. Ovechkin has already won the trophy six times, while a win for Laine would almost certainly be the first of many.