Red Wings’ Jakub Vrana not surprised by Alex Ovechkin’s race toward all-time goals mark

Detroit News

Detroit — Alex Ovechkin scored two goals Friday to mark another milestone in his illustrious career, passing Red Wings legend Gordie Howe.

The NHL all-time goals scored list now has Wayne Gretzky leading the way with 894, followed by Ovechkin (802) and Howe (801). Ovechkin tied Howe on Friday with a first-period goal, then passed Howe with an empty-net goal late in the third period in a 4-1 victory over Winnipeg.

Ovechkin’s achievement, and his pursuit of Gretzky, doesn’t surprise Wings forward Jakub Vrana.

A teammate of Ovechkin’s in Washington for five seasons, Vrana saw Ovechkin up close and came away with respect for Ovechkin’s work ethic and approach to his craft.

“I’m not surprised;he’s driven,” Vrana said of Ovechkin’s goals-scored accomplishment.

Although single-minded and focused on the ice Ovechkin always kept the Capitals loose, Vrana said, and made arriving to the rink a fun experience.

“He works hard, real hard, and is a competitive guy but in the locker room it’s all fun,” Vrana said. “He takes it real seriously on the ice. But in the room, it’s not like he’s serious all the time. He wants to have fun and makes sure it’s fun for the guys.”

Vrana and Ovechkin won a Stanley Cup together in 2018 as the Capitals defeated Vegas in five games.

Ovechkin, 37, has 22 goals this season and is setting his sights on Gretzky, now only 92 goals away. The fact Ovechkin has been durable during his career is a key reason Vrana believes Ovechkin will eventually chase down Gretzky.

“When you have that many goals in your career, he’s (Ovechkin) a guy he’s always going to want more,” Vrana said. “And he’s never been injured. He’s always been real solid, never really went through a long (term) injury. He’s a heavy, big (6-foot-3, 238 pounds), strong, just a massive piece of human. You can see it with his hits. He plays a heavy game.”

Then, there’s that Ovechkin shot, specifically the one-timer on the power play that no team has been able to totally take away all these years.

“His shot is unbelievable,”  Vrana said. “It’s all mental and he’s not afraid to shoot it. It’s in his head to be competitive, and he wants to score all the time. To some people it may sound crazy or funny, but it’s what he wants all the time. He wants to score goals.”

The thing is, Vrana has one of the better, more accurate, and sneakiest shots in the league. But even Vrana admits it’s no match to Ovechkin’s.

“He’s a few pounds heavier and bigger than me,” said Vrana, all of 6-foot, 190 pounds. “It’s unbelievable when he leans into those shots. Just powerful. Put all those things together, and his confidence, and it’s something else.”

With three more seasons left on his contract Ovechkin seems destined and in position to pass Gretzky and become the NHL’s goal-scoring king.

Vrana is confident Ovechkin will get the record.

“I believe in him, I believe he’s going to do that,” Vrana said. “But, of course, I can’t tell you he will. That’s up to him. But I believe that he’s a guy, once he’s that close and he’s so competitive, he’ll do that.”

Wings sign Lombardi

The Wings signed forward Amadeus Lombardi to a three-year, entry-level contract.

Lombardi, 19, was a Wings’ 2022 fourth-round draft pick, from the Flint Firebirds (OHL).

Lombardi (5-foot-10, 165-pounds) is enjoying a fine season in Flint, with 21 goals and 23 assists, for 44 points in 31 games.

Savage at WJC

Red Savage (Miami of Ohio) is the lone Wings prospect competing at the world junior championships in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Savage, a Wings’ 2021 fourth-round draft pick, has four goals and six assists (10 points) in 16 games with the RedHawks this season. This will be Savage’s third WJC tournament. He’s an alternate captain (Michigan’s Luke Hughes is captain).

Team USA begins its tournament Monday at 4 p.m. (NHL Network) against Latvia.

Forward Marco Kasper, the Wings’ 2022 first-round pick, is not on the Austrian roster, as the federation wants Kasper to concentrate on the men’s world championships in the spring.

Defenseman Simon Edvinsson, the Wings’ 2021 first-round pick, declined an invitation from the Swedish team and will remain with the Wings’ minor-league affiliate Grand Rapids.

Twitter: @tkulfan

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