1) Before this season there was no comparison. Clearly Ovechkin was the superior player, right? Well don't look now, but Evgeny (Gino) Malkin is now his equal and some may even be whispering that in the end he may yet prove to be the better all around player once their collective careers are through.
2) Its probably a tad too early to make that kind of statement, but few would have thought even 2 months ago that it was possible that the two were on the same plane. Sure Malkin was proving to be quite a capable forward. An excellent secondary threat after Crosby. However once Sid went down with an ankle injury in January, Evgeny's career really took off. Once the shackles of being in the background was gone, Malkin stepped up his game to a new level. Even surpassing Ovechkin for the league lead in points at differing points the past 2 weeks.
3)The two will ever be linked as they went 1-2 in the 2004 NHL Entry draft. Ovechkin was the prize everyone coveted, but most believed that Malkin was going to be a significantly good player in his own right. He has had the 'misfortune' of not only being drafted with Ovechkin, but to then have to be coupled with Sidney Crosby. That has proven to be a blessing and a curse. A blessing since he has had much less pressure to perform and has had a frequent talented player to hook up with (something Ovechkin did not have his first 2 seasons) A curse in that Malkin's depth of talent was easily over looked with his immensely talented teammate getting the lion's share of the press coverage/accolades.
4) To go through each player's strengths and to say one is 'better' than the other in a particular area diminishes the other's ability, but for the sake of this argument, we will attempt to do so anyway. To say that one is better might connote that the other is deficient. However this is not true of any of the areas we will look toward as differences between the players
- Goal scoring- With 152+ goals in his first 3 seasons (more than any NHL-er over this span by far!) AO has the clear edge here, BUT Malkin has shown a keen sense for the net and is no slouch at finding the twine either. (71+ in his first 2 years) He doesn't have nearly the shot, and probably won't score 60 in his career, but he is a danger to score every time he takes a shift, and is on pace to score 40+. Its just not fair to compare him to the most prolific scorer to come out of Russia since Pavel Bure. Edge Ovechkin
- Play making- Much like the goal scoring issue, its unfortunate we have to choose here, but so far Malkin has the edge. Through their respective first 2 seasons (Malkin's is on-going) Ovechkin had 87 assists, while Malkin has 106 helpers. Ovechkin however is no puck hog despite his enormous number of shots. He can/has made numerous amazing passes. Unfortunately until this season he had almost no one who had the ability to finish those into goals, while Malkin had/has a bevy of top forwards to set up. Still, Malkin looks like he will become/is a perennial 60+ assist guy, while Ovechkin probably won't approach that figure. Edge Malkin
- Physicality- Another area which would seem at first brush to favour Ovechkin, but after watching Malkin play the difference is not as enormous as first thought. Clearly Ovechkin is a freight train on skates. Outside of Zdeno Chara, few if any defenders have been able to handle him one on one without coming out of it worse for wear. However, at 6'3" 200, Malkin is no shrinking violet. He also plays with an edge and can take/give a hit. He doesn't play like he's a missile shot out of a cannon like Ovechkin, but at some point that aspect of Alex's game will either result in injury or he will have to tone it down to extend his career. For now though, its a significant part of the Power forwards ' power' game. Edge Ovechkin
- Potential- Here is where things become 100% subjective. Predicting how 2 careers will proceed is near impossible. Suffice to say though that IF both remain relatively healthy both will be near the top of the league in goals and points for the next decade. Could, as some recently have asked, Ovechkin become the Best LW of all time? While it appears that Ovechkin with his 13 yr extension is in DC to stay, it is unknown whether Malkin will be affordable/amenable to give a home town discount to remain a Penguin long term. In a salary capped NHL its hard enough to keep one super star, let alone several and compete (See Tampa Bay). Does he want to be second fiddle, which he would always be in Pittsburgh? Regardless of where he plays it appears that we have only seen the tip of the iceberg of what Malkin might be able to do in the NHL. Scoring titles and a case full of trophies would not be surprising. Either way, there is little doubt both will provide many seasons of excellance. Edge: The NHL/Fans!!
5) What has become abundantly clear is that these two will be dominating the NHL for many years to come. So much for the silly argument that the transfer agreement has reduced the talent that Russia is sending the NHL. We will be just fine, You (Russia) can keep Yashin, we'll take these two!