Ovechkin was the first overall selection in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. Due to the 2004–05 NHL lockout, he began play in the 2005–06 NHL season, in which he won the Calder Memorial Trophy for Rookie of the Year, scoring 52 goals and 54 assists to lead all rookies with 106 points.
During the 2007–08 season, he led the NHL with 65 goals and 112 points to capture the Rocket Richard and Art Ross Trophies. That season he also won the Lester B. Pearson Award as the top player voted by the NHL Players’ Association and the Hart Memorial Trophy as the league’s MVP. He is the only player to win all four awards since the Rocket Richard Trophy’s inception in 1999. He would lead Team Russia to a gold medal at the World Championships the same year.
Alex Ovechkin is the son of Mikhail Ovechkin, a former professional soccer player, and Tatyana Ovechkina, who won two Olympic gold medals while competing for the Soviet women’s basketball team at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal and at the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow. The first sign of Ovechkin’s future came when he was two years old—while in a Soviet toy store, he grabbed a toy hockey stick and refused to let go. His parents treasure the picture to this day. Whenever he saw a hockey game on TV, he “dropped all his toys” and ran to the TV, protesting if his parents tried to change the channel. His parents say they knew he would be an athlete when he chose to run up the steps to their 10th floor apartment instead of taking the elevator. They also encouraged him to be athletic, sending him out to play at nearby soccer fields and basketball courts.
Sergei, Ovechkin’s older brother, had initially introduced him to hockey, and Alex enrolled in hockey school at the age of 8. Soon after he began, however, he had to postpone his hockey career because his parents were unable to take him to the rink. But one of Ovechkin’s coaches saw his talent and insisted to his parents that he should continue playing hockey. Sergei later died in a car accident when Alex was only 10. A childhood friend claims this is one of the reasons Ovechkin is so passionate on the ice.
Ovechkin began playing in the Russian Superleague with Dynamo Moscow at the age of 16. Making his professional debut in the 2001–02 season, he scored four points in 21 games. In his third season with Dynamo, he won the Superleague award for Best Left Winger scoring 64 points in 53 games.
The following off-season, Ovechkin was selected first overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft by the Washington Capitals. He had been projected as the first overall pick for nearly two years and had earned comparisons to Mario Lemieux. He was so highly regarded that the Florida Panthers attempted to draft him in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft in the 9th round, even though his birthday was two days after the cut-off (September 15, 1985). Rick Dudley, the general manager of the Panthers, claimed the pick was legitimate, claiming that Ovechkin was old enough with leap years taken into consideration.
Due to the 2004–05 NHL lockout, Ovechkin remained with Dynamo for one more season. He recorded 27 points in 34 games in 2004–05, while missing nearly two months of play because of a shoulder injury sustained in the gold medal game against Canada in the 2005 World Junior Championships.
With the threat of the lockout cancelling another NHL season, Ovechkin signed a contract with rival Russian team Avangard Omsk. In order to maintain his eligibility for the NHL in the event that the lockout ended, the contract contained an out clause with a July 20, 2005 deadline. Although a new NHL collective bargaining agreement (CBA) had not yet been reached between players and owners, Ovechkin decided to opt out and signed with the Capitals on August 5, 2005. The deal was a three-year, entry-level contract worth the rookie maximum of $984,200 per season with performance-based bonuses to inflate his annual salary to as much as $3.9 million.
Two days after signing, the lockout ended with a new CBA. Ovechkin played his first game with the Capitals on October 5, 2005, scoring two goals in a 3-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets. On January 13, 2006 in Anaheim, Ovechkin scored his first career hat trick against Jean-Sébastien Giguère of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim to help Washington win the game. Three days later, on January 16, he scored a goal that veteran hockey reporter Bill Clement called “one of the greatest goals of all time.” Knocked down by Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Paul Mara and sliding on his back facing away from the net, Ovechkin was able to hook the puck with one hand on his stick and slide it into the net past goalie Brian Boucher for his second goal of the night. It became referred to as “The Goal.” On February 1, Ovechkin was named NHL Rookie of the Month for January 2006 as well as being named Offensive Player of the Month, becoming only the third player in NHL history to earn both honors simultaneously.
Ovechkin finished the 2005–06 season leading all NHL rookies in goals, points, power-play goals, and shots. He finished third overall in the NHL in scoring with 106 points and tied for third in goals with 52. His 425 shots led the league, set an NHL rookie record and was the fourth-highest total in NHL history. Ovechkin’s point total was the second-best in Washington Capitals history and his goals total tied for third in franchise history. He was also named to the NHL First All-Star Team, the first rookie to receive the honor in 15 years. After the season ended, Ovechkin received the Calder Memorial Trophy, awarded to the NHL’s best rookie. EA Sports made him one of the cover athletes for NHL 07.
Playing in the final season of his rookie contract, in 2007–08, Ovechkin signed a 13-year contract extension worth $124 million with the Capitals on January 10, 2008. The contract, which averages $9.5 million per year, is the richest in NHL history. Working without an agent, Ovechkin negotiated directly with Capitals owner Ted Leonsis and general manager George McPhee.
Late in the season, on March 3, 2008, Ovechkin notched his 50th, 51st and 52nd goals of the campaign for his fourth career NHL hat trick and to hit the 50-goal mark for the second time in his career. Later that month, on March 21, 2008, Ovechkin scored his 59th and 60th goals of the season against the Atlanta Thrashers, becoming the first NHL player to score 60 goals in a season since Mario Lemieux and Jaromír Jágr in 1995–96 and 19th player overall. Four days later, on March 25, Ovechkin scored his 61st goal of the season to break the Washington Capitals’ team record for goals in a single season previously held by Dennis Maruk. He also went on to break Luc Robitaille’s record for most goals by a left winger in one season on April 3, 2008, by scoring two goals for his 64th and 65th of the season. He also became the first NHL player to score at least 40 even-strength goals in one season since Pavel Bure in 1999-2000.
Leading the league in scoring with 65 goals and 112 points, Ovechkin captured both the Art Ross Trophy and the Rocket Richard Trophy in 2007–08. It was the first time in 41 seasons that a left-winger led the NHL in points since Bobby Hull led the league with 97 points in 1965-66.
Ovechkin helped lead a rejuvenated Capitals team back to the Stanley Cup playoffs with a stronger supporting cast that included countryman Alexander Semin, rookie center Nicklas Bäckström and defenseman Mike Green. He scored the game winning goal in his NHL playoff debut with less than five minutes left in Game 1 against the Philadelphia Flyers. He scored nine points in seven games against the Flyers as the Capitals were eliminated in the opening round.
In the off-season, Ovechkin was awarded the Lester B. Pearson Award as the top player voted by the NHL Players’ Association (NHLPA) and the Hart Memorial Trophy as the league’s MVP, becoming the first player in the history of the NHL to win all four major awards, including the Art Ross and Rocket Richard Trophies. Ovechkin was also awarded his third consecutive Kharlamov Trophy, named after Soviet hockey star Valeri Kharlamov and presented by Sovetsky Sport newspaper as the best Russian NHL player as voted by other Russian NHL players.
In late October of the 2008–09 NHL season, Ovechkin returned home to Moscow to visit his ailing grandfather, missing only the second game of his career up to that point, snapping a consecutive streak of 203 games played. On February 5, 2009, Ovechkin scored his 200th goal against the Los Angeles Kings becoming only the fourth player in the NHL to reach the milestone in four seasons, joining Wayne Gretzky, Mike Bossy and Mario Lemieux. On March 19, he scored his 50th goal of the season, becoming the first Washington Capitals player to reach the 50-goal mark three times. He finished the campaign with 56 goals to capture his second consecutive Rocket Richard Trophy, joining Jarome Iginla and Pavel Bure as the third player to win the award twice and the second player after Bure (2000 and 2001) to win the award in back-to-back seasons. With 110 points, he finished as runner-up to countryman Evgeni Malkin for the Art Ross.
Ovechkin and the Capitals repeated as division champions en route to meeting the Rangers in the opening round. After advancing to the second round in seven games, Ovechkin notched his first NHL playoff hat trick on May 4, 2009, in Game 2 against the Penguins to help Washington to a 4–3 win. The Capitals were eventually defeated by Pittsburgh, the eventual Stanley Cup champions, in seven games. Ovechkin finished the 2009 playoffs with a post-season career-high 21 points in 14 games. He went on to win the Hart and Pearson Trophies for the second consecutive year, becoming the seventeenth player to win the Hart multiple times.
Just over a month into the 2009–10 season, Ovechkin suffered an upper-body injury during a game against the Blue Jackets on November 1, 2009, after a collision with opposing forward Raffi Torres. After returning, Ovechkin was suspended by the NHL on December 1 for two games for a knee-on-knee hit to Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Tim Gleason during a game the previous day. Both Gleason and Ovechkin had to be helped off the ice, although Gleason later returned during the game, while Ovechkin did not. Ovechkin was assessed a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct at the time. Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau commented that Ovechkin’s style of play was at times “reckless”. The suspension was Ovechkin’s first of his career, causing him to forfeit $98,844.16 in salary.
On January 5, 2010, Ovechkin was named captain of the Washington Capitals after previous captain Chris Clark was traded away. He became the first European, second youngest and 14th overall captain in team history.
On February 5, 2010, at a game against the New York Rangers, Ovechkin, with his second goal and third point of the game, reached the 500-point milestone of his NHL career. He is the fifth player to achieve the milestone in only five seasons, reaching it in 373 career games.
On March 14, 2010, at a game against the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center, Ovechkin sent Hawks defenseman Brian Campbell into the boards after Campbell had dumped the puck to the blue line. Ovechkin was called for boarding, receiving a 5-minute major and a game misconduct, and was suspended for 2 games. Campbell suffered a fractured clavicle and fractured rib, and was expected to be out 7-8 weeks. The NHL has subsequently drawn criticism for its inconsistency in issuing supplemental discipline, having not suspended Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke for injuring Boston’s Marc Savard just days earlier, even though he was not assessed a penalty in-game (Cooke had, in fact, been suspended earlier in the season for a similar hit).
At the age of 16, Ovechkin helped lead the Junior National Team to the Gold medal with two hat tricks, one against Switzerland and one against USA, and an assist.
At the age of 17, when he was selected by Russian coach Viktor Tikhonov to play in the Česká Pojišťovna Cup EuroTour tournament, Ovechkin became the youngest skater ever to play for the Russian National Team in the history of Russian hockey. In that tournament he also became the youngest player ever to score for the National Team.
At the age of 18, Alex Ovechkin was named Captain of the Junior Russian National Team. Russia finished 5th in the tournament.
Also at the age of 19, Alex Ovechkin was named Captain of the Junior National Team in the 2005 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships. The tournament, lasting from December 25, 2004, to January 4, 2005, was Ovechkin’s third and last. At the end of the tournament he had collected 7 goals (tied for tournament lead). His team received the silver medal after losing the gold medal game to Canada on January 4, and Ovechkin was named the Best Forward of the tournament as well as selected to the tournament All-Star Team. In 2005 Ovechkin played in his first IIHF men’s World Championships. He scored five goals and three assists, landing eighth in the top scorers list and sharing third place in goal scoring.
In 2006, Ovechkin played in his first Winter Olympic Games. Although Russia came away from the games without a medal, Ovechkin scored 5 goals in the tournament, including the game-winner against Canada’s Martin Brodeur, eliminating Canada from the tournament. Ovechkin was the only player not on the Swedish (Gold) or Finnish (Silver) teams to be named to the all-tournament team.
At the 2006 IIHF World Championships, Ovechkin scored six goals and three assists (nine points) in seven games before Russia lost 4-3 to the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals. For his efforts, Ovechkin was one of six players selected to the Media All-Star Team.
At the 2008 IIHF World Championships, Ovechkin helped lead Russia to the gold medal by finishing with 12 points (six goals, six assists) in nine games. He was selected to the Media All-Star Team for the second time in five tournament appearances.
Off the ice
The day after he received his first Hart Memorial Trophy as league MVP, he was given the key to the city by Washington mayor Adrian M. Fenty for being the first Washington MVP winner in a major sport since Joe Theismann of the Washington Redskins in 1983.
On June 11, 2008, Ovechkin also launched his own line of designer Streetwear with CCM.
Ovechkin was reportedly involved in a feud with Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin, who was drafted second behind Ovechkin in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. Though the two were reported to be good friends when they roomed together during the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy, this friendship quickly cooled. There is no definitive information on what caused the feud, but the most popular theory is that it began in August 2007, when Ovechkin supposedly punched Malkin’s Russian agent, Gennady Ushakov, at a Moscow nightclub. Ovechkin has denied that version of events, while Malkin confirmed it, although he was not certain whether this was the precipitating event to the feud. The most notorious event took place on January 21, 2008 in Pittsburgh, when Ovechkin took a run at Malkin, which would have seemingly resulted in a devastating hit had Malkin not ducked out of the way just in time. The two would also not make eye contact at the 2008 NHL Awards Ceremony. Despite these incidents, Ovechkin has repeatedly denied “having it out” for Malkin. Though the feud raised many concerns as to its effect on the league, and the Russian national team at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, it apparently dissipated as mysteriously as it started. On January 24, 2009, at the SuperSkills Competition, Malkin assisted Ovechkin in his stunt during the Breakaway Challenge. Malkin handed Ovechkin his props for the stunt as well as handing him his stick and pouring some sports drink down Ovechkin’s throat. Though there is no final word on the nature and status of the feud, considering their past interactions, this incident appears to show that the feud has effectively ended. It has been reported that Ilya Kovalchuk, who was then the Atlanta Thrashers‘ captain and is also teammate of Ovechkin and Malkin on the Russian national team, brokered the peace between the two.
On January 24, 2009, Ovechkin won the Breakaway Competition at the SuperSkills Competition for the 2nd consecutive year in Montreal after emerging in the final few seconds wearing a hat bestowed with a Canadian flag and white sunglasses. On January 25, 2009, Ovechkin scored 1 goal and notched 2 assists, as well as scoring the game-ending shootout goal in the 2009 NHL All-Star Game as the Eastern Conference won 12-11.
He also makes a brief cameo appearance in Vlad Topalov’s music video for “Perfect Criminal”. He appears at 3:50 minutes into the video, playing “the last man on Earth.”
Late in the 2008–09 NHL season, Ovechkin garnered some criticism over his exuberant after-goal celebrations. In the February 28, 2009, segment of Hockey Night in Canada’s Coach’s Corner, Canadian hockey analyst Don Cherry likened Ovechkin’s celebrations of jumping into the boards and his team-mates to that of soccer players, concluding that this was not the Canadian way and advising Canadian kids to ignore Ovechkin’s example. Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau came to Ovechkin’s defense, stating Cherry “doesn’t know Alex like we know Alex”, and Ovechkin himself stated that he “doesn’t care” about Cherry. The next notable incident happened on March 19, 2009, in a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. After scoring his 50th goal of the season, Ovechkin put his stick on the ice, pretending to warm his hands over it because it was “hot”. The incident sparked an immediate response from Tampa Bay coach Rick Tocchet who said that “[Ovechkin] went down a notch in my books”. Boudreau had also stated that he would discuss the incident with Ovechkin, and teammate Mike Green, despite being the first to celebrate with Ovechkin afterwards, commented that he did not wish to join in the pre-meditated celebration. Ovechkin himself laughed it off, noting particularly that “Don Cherry was going to be [ticked] (sic).”
On July 6, 2009, Ovechkin was named an ambassador for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
In late 2009, he was named GQ’s 48th most powerful person in D.C.