For the past four years, the NHL has been trying to artificially create some sort of Magic Johnson vs. Larry Bird rivalry between Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby. While doing so, it overlooked a far more intriguing matchup (I think) in Ovechkin vs. Evgeni Malkin. And for a while, the two appeared to generally dislike each other, and sometimes it showed on the ice (though, it was all friendly belly rubs at this year's All-Star game). They're both from Russia, were roommates during the 2006 Olympics, and were selected with back-to-back picks during the 2004 NHL Entry Draft (Ovechkin went first, Malkin second).
Over the past two years, they've separated themselves from the pack when it comes to being the most dominant players in the league. They've finished in the top-two in scoring the past two seasons, each leading the league once (Ovechkin in 2007-08, Malkin in 2008-09). As a center, Malkin has more defensive responsibilities than Ovechkin and actually led the league in takeaways this season, ending Pavel Datsyuk's two-year run as the league leader. Ovechkin is the NHL's most prolific goal-scorer, leading the league two years in a row, and is the flashier player that can make highlights not only for his unthinkable goals, but also for his physicaility.
Here's how they compare statistically over the past two seasons, just as an example as to how close they are offensively.
Offensively, the numbers are nearly identical. Ovechkin has a slight-edge in the raw point total and in terms of points-per-game, while Malkin has a slight advantage in points-per-minute. It all comes down to what your preference is: a play-making franchise center, or a goal-scoring franchise wing. Personally, I take Malkin as my No. 1.
And now, your obligatory YouTube videos. First, for the runner-up Ovechkin, I direct you to Slap Shot Blog's greatest hits compilation. Finally, my best player in the NHL, Evgeni Malkin ...