MILESTONE PLAYERS THAT WILL BE HIT THIS SEASON

It’s kind of incredible that Patrick Marleau’s 831-game iron man streak isn’t the highest in the NHL right now. That distinction goes to Keith Yandle, who hasn’t missed a game since March 26, 2009 – 841 games ago.

But with game No. 1,700 under his belt on Saturday, Marleau – the active games played leader in the NHL, with San Jose Sharks teammate Joe Thornton next behind at 1,612 – Marleau became just the fifth player to appear in as many big-league contests. It would have happened earlier had he signed his NHL contract before the season began, but he instead missed a handful of games as he waited to find a fit, one he eventually found with the Sharks. So, while a few games were played without Marleau’s involvement, his consecutive games streak technically survived as he didn’t miss any scheduled games.

Marleau celebrated his milestone in style, too, Saturday night, when the Sharks secured a 2-1 victory over the visiting Dallas Stars and Marleau (who else?) scored the game-wining goal. With 16 points in 43 games this season, Marleau’s offensive output is minimal compared to his best days, but he’s still managing more than 15 minutes per game at age 40 and is seen as a great leader for some of the team’s youngest stars.

Now that Marleau hit 1,700, which other milestones are quickly approaching around the league this season?

700 goals: Alex Ovechkin
It’s only a matter of time before Ovechkin becomes just the eighth forward in NHL history to hit 700 goals, and it’s not at all far fetched to think he’s going to give serious chase to Wayne Gretzky’s record of 894. You can almost always count on Ovechkin to put home anywhere from 45 to 55 goals each season, and at a current pace of 47 goals this year, he could have the 16 goals required to reach the milestone by late February or early March. For perspective, Marleau is the next highest active goal-scorer with 559 goals. The catch? Marleau has played nearly 600 more games. At a goals-per-game rate of .60, Ovechkin will go down as the greatest goal-scorer of his time and one of the best to ever play the game.

1,100 assists: Joe Thornton
It’s been a tough year for Thornton, who has just two goals and 19 points through 47 games in what could be his final NHL season. So time is running out for him to hit a few personal milestones, with the Sharks forward needing another 18 assists to hit 1,100, and he’s just three points away from becoming the 14th player ever to hit 1,500. It’s not surprising that a player with 10 seasons of at least 50 assists – including seasons of 96 and 92 in 2005-06 and 2006-07, respectively – is chasing down such a milestone, but age has slowed him and is putting his pursuit of the mark in jeopardy. Still, Sharks fans would love to see him hit both totals this season.

1,000 points: Patrick Kane
Even when the Chicago Blackhawks are bad, Kane has proven to be one of the NHL’s best. His current points-per-game mark of 1.049 is good for 37th all-time, and with five points to go until he hits 1,000, he’ll manage to reach the millennium mark in well under 1,000 games. Among his various awards, Kane won the Art Ross trophy in 2015-16 with 106 points and he topped that with 110 points in 2018-19. In fact, his lowest point total in a full NHL season was 64 in 2014-15, but he missed 21 games due to injury. Suffice to say, Kane is one of the greatest American players ever and at 31, 1,500 points isn’t out of the question.

900 games: Henrik Lundqvist
The best days are behind ‘King Henrik’, but he’s just 18 games away from appearing in his 900th game. Marc-Andre Fleury is second with 830 games played. Once Lundqvist plays in his 900th contest, he’ll become the eighth goalie in NHL history to reach the plateau, with Glenn Hall and his 906 games played next on the board. With the arrival of Igor Shesterkin, the Rangers have a three-goalie system that, at least for now, will prevent Lundqvist from seeing regular action, but he’s still seen as a good veteran presence in tandem with Shesterkin. Henrik Lundqvist also sits fifth in wins with 458, but Fleury sits just one victory behind. Will Lundqvist become just the third goalie to record 500 wins? Fleury is more likely, but Lundqvist isn’t far off from hitting the rare milestone himself.

60 shutouts: Marc-Andre Fleury and Pekka Rinne
Speaking of Fleury, the Golden Knights netminder is just two blankings away from hitting 60 career shutouts, with the potential to become the 18th goalie to do so. He hasn’t been at his best recently – he allowed four goals against in multiple games in January – but you can typically count on Fleury to get a handful of shutouts each season. With two in 32 games, he’s on pace to record his 60th shutout before the season is through. Same goes for Rinne, who has had a rocky year in Nashville but with three donuts in 2019-20, he’s in a four-way tie with Jaroslav Halak, Tristan Jarry and Connor Hellebuyck for the league lead. Rinne needs two more to reach 60 career shutouts.