Sidney Crosby is your NHL goal scoring leader with 44. His Goals/game rate is 0.68 this season. As impressive as this is, Alex Ovechkin has a career Goals/game rate of 0.69 over almost five full seasons. Last year, I looked at equalizing individual goal scoring seasons, http://nitzyshockeyden.blogspot.com/2009/02/equalizing-goal-scoring.html
How does Ovechkin's scoring rate compare to all-time numbers. On it's own, his rate in his first five years is the sixth best in modern history to start a career.
Goals/Game First Five Seasons (modern era)
Br. Hull 0.80
The only problem with comparing numbers like this is the fact that league scoring has varied wildly over the years. For instance, over Gretzky's first five seasons (1979-84) there was an average of 7.67 goals scored in each NHL game. Over the last five seasons, teams have scored on average 5.83 goals combined per game. This is a huge difference, and makes current numbers even more impressive.
If we go back even farther, (pre 1940's) we see some even higher goal scoring rates.
Goals/ Game First Five Seasons (pre 1940)
Joe Malone 1.48
Newsy Lalonde 1.28
Cy Denneny 1.21
Babe Dye 1.06
Reg Noble 0.92
Frank Nighbor 0.87
Howie Morenz 0.71
Nels Stewart 0.66
Charlie Conacher 0.65
There is even more of a variance in league-wide scoring during the pre-war period which makes these numbers that much more deceptive. Over the first five seasons of the NHL (1917-22) there was an average of 8.74 goals scored in each game. Scoring dropped off rapidly in the late 1920's, from 1925-30 there was an average of 4.25 goals scored per game, less than half than in the previous era.
The simplest way to compare all these eras is to equate each era to one universal scoring average. If Gretzky's 0.91 G/GP in an era when 7.67 G/GP was scored is put into a moderate era with 6.50 Goals scored per game it comes out an Equalized Rate of 0.77 Goals/Game. Conversely, when Ovechkin's 0.69 G/GP in an era with 5.83 goals scored is translated into a 6.50 G/GP standard it also comes out as a 0.77 rating, exactly the same as The Great One. Therefore we can say that Ovechkin is tied with Gretzky in Equalized Goals/Game over the first five years of a career. The top eight are as follows:
Equalized Goals/Game - First Five Years of Career (modern era)
Br. Hull 0.72
Joe Malone 1.10
Nels Stewart 1.01
Howie Morenz 1.01
Newsy Lalonde 0.95
Babe Dye 0.91
Cy Denneny 0.90
Charlie Conacher 0.84
We can see that when the era's are equalized to one goal scoring standard there is far less of a gap in the numbers. One thing that's for certain is that Ovechkin is in fact one of the greatest goal scorers in modern history, the numbers don't lie.