With one of the greatest sets of players ever to enter the Hall of Fame last night, it seems like an appropriate time to look ahead at what is to come for the Hall. Recent retirees like Sakic, Sundin (and possibly Roenick) are pretty much a lock when their wait period ends, but what about current NHL players? Which players have already earned their spots and which ones are the most likely to do so through the rest of their careers? Let's break it down.
First, let's look at the players who have stamped their ticket already. In other words, if these players were to retire today, they should be guaranteed a spot in the Hall, based on their accomplishments so far. (Note: I'm excluding guys like Belfour who aren't technically retired, but obviously aren't coming back to pro hockey any time soon)
1. Martin Brodeur - Arguably the best goaltender of all time, and he's not done yet. No discussion needed.
2. Niklas Lidstrom - Again, one of the best at his position of all time. 6 Norris and 1 Conn Smythe, puts him up with the elite D in the Hall.
3. Jaromir Jagr - 9th all time in points, plus a couple of Cups and a handful of Art Ross Trophies have secured his spot. He may come back to add to his totals next season.
4. Marc Recchi - Probably one of the most underrated players of all time. Hard to believe he's 14th all time in points and will probably climb another spot this season.
5. Chris Chelios - I'm no fan of Chelios, but you'd be a moron to argue against him getting into the Hall of Fame. 4th all time in games played and 3 Norris Trophies, along with 3 Cup rings, and he's still trying to play more.
6. Brendan Shanahan - 11th all time in goals, and could rise to 10th if he plays again this season. Also sits 23rd in all time points.
7. Mike Modano - Highest scoring American player of all time and 29th overall. Won a Cup and holds every record for the Stars franchise.
8. Teemu Selanne - 18th all time in goals, 41st in points. Won a Cup. His rookie season alone should have earned him consideration.
9. Scott Niedermeyer - Niedermeyer has won everything possible in his career, including: 2 Cups, Conn Smythe, Norris, Olympic Gold, World Cup Gold, & Junior Gold
10. Chris Osgood - Some may dispute his ticket being stamped, but you need to consider the facts. 10th all time in wins. 23rd all time in shutouts. 8th in playoff wins and 4th in playoff shutouts. He's scored a goal and won 3 Cups. Osgood is Hall material.
11. Sergei Fedorov - Fedorov has won 3 Cups and 1 Hart Trophy. He's top 50 in all time points and 13th in playoff points.
12. Peter Forsberg - While injuries have held him back, he's still top 100 in points. More importantly, he ranks 17th in playoff points and 20th in playoff goals. He may be back for more shortly.
13. Rod Brind'Amour - Brind'Amour may be considered borderline by some, but consider: he's top 50 in all time points with 1165 and counting. He's won a pair of Selke's and a Stanley Cup. He's also considered one of the best captains in the game.
14. Chris Pronger - While not a popular choice for many, it's hard to argue against him. He's won Hart and Norris. He's taken the Cup. He's a proven scorer and one of the most intimidating players in the game. He's still got a few more good years to build on his reputation.
Now, let's look at the guys who are most likely to earn a spot in the Hall, based on what we've seen from them so far. With some of the older guys on this list, they're a Cup win or a few good seasons away from locking up a spot. Some of the younger guys aren't quite guaranteed a spot yet, since injuries could always end a career early. Here's my shot at the 10 most likely to make the Hall:
1. Keith Tkachuk - Tkachuk is borderline right now with 1000 plus points. He's currently ranked 31 all time in goals. The one thing missing on his resume is a Cup win. A couple more 20+ goal seasons should cement his spot either way.
2. Paul Kariya - Like Tkachuk, the one thing holding Kariya back is his name on the Cup. He came close in 2003. He's top 80 in points all time and will likely crack 1000 points this season. A couple more decent years of point production will get him into the Hall without much debate.
3. Jarome Iginla - Iginla is just about into the top 100 in all time points, and he still has plenty of good years left to come. His all around game is another plus that should earn him a spot. Like Tkachuk and Kariya, a Cup win would certainly help his cause.
4. Sidney Crosby - Already won a Cup and is well on his way to a guaranteed Hall of Fame career. No reason to doubt he'll be there some day.
5. Alex Ovechkin - Just 5 years into his career, and already looking like a sure thing for the Hall. 2 Hart trophies already. His aggressive style of play is the one thing that may cut this party short. Think Eric Lindros.
6. Vincent Lecavalier - Already has the Cup on his resume and is a proven scorer who will steadily climb the all time list over the next 10 years.
7. Evgeni Malkin - It's only his fourth season, so this may be premature, but there's no reason to doubt he'll get there some day. Already has a Cup, Conn Smythe, and Art Ross in his collection.
8. Joe Thornton - The biggest factor holding Thornton back is clearly the lack of playoff success. No doubt if he keeps up his pace, he'll have the points to get there in a few years. If the Sharks can break through and win the Cup, he'll be a lock.
9. Ilya Kovalchuk - Kovalchuk has averaged about 40 goals over his first 7 NHL seasons. If he can keep up his pace, he has a good shot at finishing in the top 10 of all time, and will be a no brainer for the Hall. Imagine where he would be already on a better team.
10. Marian Hossa - Sure, Hossa has been on the wrong side of the Cup handshake two years in a row, but he's in his prime and should have a few more shots at it with the Hawks. He's already over 700 points in his career, and seems likely to get there.
Finally, here are a few more guys who I think will be borderline candidates when their time is up in a couple of seasons:
1. Rob Blake
2. Doug Weight
3. Mathieu Schneider
4. Evgeni Nabokov
5. Daniel Alfredsson