Fans, media members, coaches, and executives in the hockey world like to toss out the tag future Hall of Famer when referring to players, but just how many of the league's current players are actually deserving of the recognition? The way most people discuss the notion, you would think half of the stars in the NHL are bound for the Hockey Hall of Fame, but it's worth noting that in the league's 100-year history, only 271 players have been inducted, several of which are non-NHL players. That's less than three players per season, which would leave several big-name players out of the Hall.
Players yet to be inducted into the Hall of Fame include Paul Kariya, Theo Fleury, Mark Recchi, and Bernie Nicholls, all of which not only had dominant seasons, but were consistent All-Stars throughout their careers. Every year there's an ongoing debate about which players should or shouldn't make the list, and that's not going to change anytime soon. You can easily pick a group of current sure-fire Hall of Famers (hint: winning a Stanley Cup helps), but chances are you'll upset quite a few fan bases by discrediting the achievements of their team's star player. So, without further ado, let's do both.
15 15. Will: Sidney Crosby
Let's get the most obvious one out of the way. Sidney Crosby could retire right now and he would be a first-ballot Hockey Hall of Fame inductee. There's absolutely zero chance he doesn't become a member of hockey's most prestigious group; the only question is whether or not he's considered the greatest of all-time when he does retire?
14 14. Won't: Marc-Andre Fleury
Let's start with a case for why former number one overall goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury might be considered for the Hall when he retires. The 32-year-old, like Crosby, has won two Stanley Cups, is a two-time NHL All-Star, and has an Olympic gold medal. He was even named the Penguins in-house MVP in 2011, which is impressive given the talent on that team.
13 13. Will: Carey Price
Though Fleury, above, led the league in shutouts in 2014-15, his overall numbers didn't even come close to those of Carey Price, who was the runaway Vezina winner with 27 of a possible 30 first place votes. Price was downright dominant that year, also taking home the Hart Memorial Trophy as the league's best player, receiving 139 of a possible 157 first place votes. Unless you're name is José Théodore, chances are very high you're a Hall of Famer if you win both the Vezina and Hart in the same year.
12 12. Won't: Anze Kopitar
Sometimes winning a Stanley Cup isn't enough to earn a star player a spot in the Hall. Sometimes winning two Stanley Cups isn't enough, either. Sure, Anze Kopitar has a pretty impressive resume and is coming off of the best season of his career in which he won both the Lady Byng and Selke Trophy as the league's most gentlemanly and effective player and the league's top defensive forward. He even led the Kings in playoff scoring during both of their Stanley Cup runs.
11 11. Will: Patrick Kane
Stanley Cups - Patrick Kane has three - and awards - Calder, Hart, Pearson, Art Ross, and Conn Smythe - aside, sometimes a player deserves Hall of Fame talk simply based on the way he plays the game. The American winger revitalized a starving fanbase in Chicago with a dominant rookie season in which he scored 72 points in 82 games and has been a consistent point producer every season. But it's not just the points; it's how he gets them, making defenders look absolutely silly on a nightly basis with his swift skating and silky-smooth dangles.
10 10. Won't: Henrik Lundqvist
Everything about being a goaltender is unfair. You have to face 100 mile per hour shots on a nightly basis and when you're team is winning, you get a small share of the credit; when your team is awful, you get the bulk of the blame. And if your team is unable to win a Stanley Cup - or at the very least come close - then chances are you're not going to be remembered as fondly.
9 9. Will: Drew Doughty
Drew Doughty has been one of the league's most dominant defenseman since his second year in the league when he recorded a career-high 59 points and finished third in Norris Trophy voting. Since then, he has finished top ten in voting in five of the following six seasons, including last year when he won the trophy for the first time.
8 8. Won't: Patrick Marleau
If it was titled the "Hockey Hall of Consistency, San Jose Sharks winger Patrick Marleau might head the class as soon as he's eligible. The 37-year-old has missed just 30 games throughout his 19-year-career and, excluding the lockout-shortened year and his rookie season, hasn't scored fewer than 40 points in a season. He has 1,062 points in 1,461 career games and is just two goals away from 500.
7 7. Will: Jonathan Toews
Did we mention the HOF voters like Stanley Cups? While they're not the sole determining factor as to whether a player is a Hall of Famer or not, they certainly tip the scales of balance in favor of a bubble player. Toews has captained the Chicago Blackhawks to three championships and, like Kopitar, has a Selke Trophy to his name as the league's best defensive forward.
6 6. Won't: Rick Nash
The former first overall pick has been a consistent scorer throughout his 14-year NHL career, notching 407 goals in 959 games. But it has always felt like Rick Nash had more to offer. He won the Rocket Richard Trophy for most goals with 41 as a 19-year-old in 2003-04 with the Columbus Blue Jackets, but failed to reach that number again until 2014-15 when he scored 42 as a member of the New York Rangers. Nash finished seventh in Hart voting that year, but it was the first time he had received any votes since 2009.
5 5. Will: Erik Karlsson
If you've ever watched an Ottawa Senators game, chances are you only did so to see Erik Karlsson play. But you would have also noticed the Swedish defenseman plays roughly half of the game and seemingly always has the puck on his stick. In just his eighth season in the league, Karlsson has already won the Norris Trophy twice and finished top 10 in Hart Trophy voting three times. Last season, he led the entire league (not just defensemen) in assists with 66 and had 82 points in 82 games.
4 4. Won't: Phil Kessel
As much as we love him and his nonchalant approach to the game and life in general, Phil "The Thrill" Kessel is no Hall of Famer. The regular season numbers are relatively impressive (625 points in 798 career games) and the playoff totals are even more so (43 points in 46 games), but Kessel is a complementary piece to a winning franchise, not the go-to star, as was proved during his time in Toronto.
3 3. Will: Alex Ovechkin
Another no-brainer. While we focused heavily on Stanley Cups for earlier players, there are a select few where it really doesn't matter. Alexander Ovechkin is one of those players. The Great 8 has 549 career goals, six Rocket Richard trophies, and three Hart trophies as the league's top player. He topped 50 goals in seven seasons, including his rookie year.
2 2. Won't: Patrice Bergeron
Patrice Bergeron is the man in Boston. The Bruins captain is the heart and soul of the franchise; he once played through a Stanley Cup Finals game with a broken rib, separated shoulder, and torn cartilage and muscle tissue. But despite his impressive defensive play (he has won three Selke Trophies) and faceoff ability, he's always been an overrated player.
1 1. Will: Evgeni Malkin
Though he was omitted from the NHL 100 list recently released during All-Star Weekend, Evgeni Malkin is a sure-fire Hall of Famer - and a top-100 all-time player, for the record. Geno won the Calder Trophy in 2006-07 with 85 points as a 20-year-old and captured his first of two Art Ross trophies two seasons later, recording 113 points in 82 games. In 2011-12, Malkin won the Art Ross, the Hart, and the Lester B. Pearson as the league's MVP as voted by the players.
Let's not forget that Malkin was the Conn Smythe winner during the Penguins Stanley Cup win in 2009, the first Russian to win the award. He was absolutely dominant in those playoffs, recording 36 points in 24 games, including three game-winning goals. He has 129 points in 124 playoff games, which is good enough for 22nd all-time in points per game, ahead of notable Hall of Famers Denis Savard and Doug Gilmour.
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