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Can John Tavares Score 500 Goals?

You may have decided to boycott hockey this weekend after the Islanders lifeless 4-0 loss in Philadelphia on Saturday afternoon. If you did, you missed Washington’s Alexander Ovechkin become the 42nd player and first Russian player in NHL history to score 500 goals with a classic Ovi Power Play goal against the Senators at Verizon Center.

Ovehckin accomplished the feat in just 801 games all-time, the fifth-fastest all-time, behind Wayne Gretzky (575), Mario Lemieux (605), Mike Bossy (647) and Brett Hull (693). Ovechkin also joins Gretzky, Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Bossy and Steve Yzerman as players who scored 500 before their 31st birthday. Ovechkin won’t turn 31 until Sept. 17.

(Side Note: Do you think Bossy wishes he would have scored his 500th as an empty netter? It’s like a swinging bunt for your 3,000 hit)

All of this had me asking myself two questions:

1) Will John Tavares score 500 goals? Maybe. He has a chance.

2) If he does, will it be as an Islander? Don’t ask me that!

Tavares has 189 goals in 471 career games. That is a goals-per-game average of 0.401 and as Yahoo’s Greg Wyshynski explained, the Isles captain’s pace is well behind that of the top scorers in the NHL past and present.

From a goals-per-game perspective, Ovechkin is at 0.625, which is a good distance away from the only other player that belongs in the “best sniper alive” conversation for the last several years: Steven Stamkos (0.551).

Overall, Ovechkin’s goals per game average ranks fourth in NHL history among players with a minimum of 300 games played, behind Mike Bossy (0.762), Cy Denneny (0.755), who played from 1917-29 with Ottawa and Boston, and Mario Lemieux (0.754).

Missing from that list? Wayne Gretzky, who has a goals-per-game average of 0.601, which ranks sixth all-time behind these four and Pavel Bure (0.623, and arguably the last great sniper before Ovechkin arrived).”

At his current pace, Tavares would score his 500th goal in his 1,246th career game, meaning he would need to remain healthy and very productive for almost 10 more seasons. Tavares would be 35 at that time and the odds of staying healthy and a consistent 25-30 goal score are not favorable.

Let’s compare his potential career arc to that of Bryan Trottier. The Hall of Famer scored exactly 500 goals for the Islanders, playing in 1,123 games on Long Island during a much more offensive oriented era. Granted, Trottier never had the benefit of the 3 on 3 or 4 on 4 overtime, but he wasn’t shooting against 6’5 goalies with state of the art equipment either. He was also skating alongside Mike Bossy.

In his 15 seasons in New York, Trottier registered a goals-per-game average of 0.445, including four 40 goal seasons and a 50 goal campaign in 1981-82. Tavares’ career high in goals came last season with 38, his best mark since posting 31 goals in 2011-12.

Stephen Lorenzo (@StephenCLorenzo) covered the Isles last season for the Daily News and wrote this fun story for the Washington Post on Ovechkin’s 500+ goals as remembered by the goalies he tormented.

Lorenzo recently asked Tavares about the quest for 500 goals in a career and shared his thoughts with IslesBlog via Twitter

Yes, Tavares has some work to do. A lot of work to do.

I hope I am wrong, but my guess is he falls short. Tavares is more of a grinding play maker than classic sniper and I don’t see him putting up the 40+ goal seasons during his prime that would likely be necessary to eclipse 500 goals.

It has been remarkable what he has done given the revolving door of wingers he has skated with but for JT to have a shot a 500 goals, his best years need to still be in front of him. Now that would be fun to watch.

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