The celebration for Patrick Marleau breaking Gordie Howe’s NHL regular season games played record could have easily been scheduled for sometime in 2022.

After being drafted No. 2 overall in 1997, Marleau nearly was returned to his junior team before signing ahead of a late September deadline. That opened the door for the 18-year-old to make his NHL debut on Oct. 1, 1997 against the Oilers.

(Marleau also just made the cutoff for the 1997 draft. Had he been born a day later — Sept. 16 — he would not have been eligible until 1998.)

Twenty-four years later, Marleau will play regular season game No. 1,768 Monday night against the Golden Knights. Should he continue his career into 2021-22, he will likely pass Mark Messier (1,992) for the NHL record for most regular season and playoff games played. He’s currently at 1,962.

According to the NHL, 8,100 players have appeared in at least one game in league history. Only five — Howe, Marleau, Messier (1,756), Jaromir Jagr (1,733), and Ron Francis (1,731) have suited up for at least 1,700 games.