One of Wayne Gretzky's so-called untouchable records may be within reach after all, and The Great One is ready for it.
Alex Ovechkin's remarkable durability and prodigious scoring ability have put Gretzky's all-time goals record of 894 within striking distance. Ovechkin, who has 658 tallies to his name, would need to average 34 goals over the next seven seasons to catch Gretzky.
Gretzky thinks it can be done.
"Absolutely," he said on the Hockey Night in Canada podcast to be released Thursday, according to the CBC's Cole Shelton. "First and foremost, you got to be injury-free and Alex has been injury-free throughout his career.
"You have to play in a good organization and Alex is playing in a good organization. And you have to play with good players, and Alex is playing on a good team with good players. I just have nothing but respect for the young man. He plays the game hard, he plays physical and he wants to win."
The 33-year-old Russian is coming off his eighth 50-goal campaign and recently admitted he's eyeing Gretzky's record.
When Gretzky broke Gordie Howe's goals record in 1994, Howe was the first to congratulate him. Gretzky says he'll do the same if Ovechkin can make history.
"My dad said when I broke Gordie Howe's record, and I was a little bit embarrassed, he said, 'You know, one day someone is going to come along and maybe break your record and you just make sure you handle it yourself the same way Gordie Howe did,'" Gretzky said. "And that is what I am trying to do.
"Listen, I have nothing but respect and time for Alex, and good for him. If he does get close and does break it, I'll be there at the game, hopefully. And, hopefully, I can be the first guy to shake his hand."