November 20, 2015

Is Alexander Ovechkin The Greatest Russian Player Ever?

With this goal against Dallas' Kari Lehtonen, Alexander Ovechkin passed Sergei Fedorov to become the highest scoring Russian born player in NHL history.

The question I pose today is if Alexander Ovechkin is the greatest Russian player ever?

There are no shortage of great Russian players over the years. Fedorov's dominant, complete game was truly a thing of beauty. Pavel Bure was probably the most exciting individual player I've ever seen, regardless of nationality. Sergei Makarov was up there, too. Igor Larionov was so intellectual. And Vladislav Tretiak, Valeri Kharlamov and Viacheslav Fetisov have incomparable legacies.

There is no shortage great Russian players over the last 50 years. But for me the greatest Russian player debate centers around Fedorov and Ovechkin.

Fedorov came to the NHL as a flashy, new-age Russian, but in reality he was a classic Soviet-trained centerman who bridged generations. His game was so complete. Fedorov was a near perfect hockey player, perhaps the most versatile player of the modern generation. He was so heady and understood the game so well that he could play any position, even defense, a true rarity of the hockey elite. His phenomenal skating prowess and agility complimented his intelligence so that he could excel in any situation.

Ovechkin is more of a one trick pony, but no one excels at that trick better. That trick just happens to be goal scoring, arguably the most important trick on the ice. With good health and continued play into his forties, Ovechkin, the five time Rocket Richard Trophy winner as the NHL's goal scoring leader, even has a shot at catching Wayne Gretzky's record 894 career goal. Regardless, he will go down in history as one of the greatest goal scorers in all of hockey history. Era-adjusted goal statistics may even suggest Ovie will be the greatest.

Perhaps it is still too early to ask this question. But will history see Alex Ovechkin as the greatest Russian player of all time? Can his goal scoring exploits over come his lack of championship success both at the NHL and international level?

I think it will. Plus his legacy, both in Russia and in North America, is already set incredibly high - higher than Fedorov's, in my opinion.

You tell me - who is the greatest Russian player of all time?

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