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 eight. 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 ten. A childhood friend claims this is one of the reasons Ovechkin is so passionate on the ice. He also has another older brother, Mikhael.
Ovechkin began playing in the Russian Superleague (RSL) with Dynamo Moscow at the age of 16. Making his professional debut in the 2001–02 season, he scored four points in 21 games. He would spend three seasons there prior to being drafted by the NHL, and he would rack up 36 goals and 32 assists in 152 career 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 ninth 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. In the playoffs, he helped Dynamo win the RSL title.
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.