The history of hockey is an ongoing story, not yet finished. It is easy to get caught up in the action night after night, but sometimes it's important to take a step back and reflect on where the game came from. There is no better place to do that than at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. The HOF is a sacred temple of hockey. It preserves and promotes the game by immortalizing the players, referees and builders that not only dominated the sport during their respective era, but that also changed the character of hockey altogether. The top 1%. This top 15 list (three top fives) will rank current NHL players that will eventually become hall of famers.
There is no quantitative standard for inducting a player into the HOF. Instead, there are five criteria that are taken into consideration by the selection committee. First, talent and performance are essentials, so playing ability is weighed. What were his statistics? Was he the best at his position? What awards did he win? Second, sportsmanship is looked at. Was the player a graceful winner and loser? Was he highly respected throughout the league during his career? Third, character is assessed. A hall of famer must continue to promote hockey the rest of his life. Is the player an ambassador for the game on and off the ice? Will he continue to be? Fourth, a players’ contribution to his team and to his community is measured. What organizations was the player involved with off the ice? Was he active in his community? Did he influence positive change in his city or country? Last but not least, longevity is important. There are a lot of players that are a flash in the pan, but few that can sustain their performance for years on hockey’s greatest stage.
For the purposes of this countdown, the criteria will be considered to rate three age groups, consisting of five players each. The first age group in the countdown will be the youngest: 25-28 year olds. The second will be the 29-35 age group and the top five will be 36 and up. Differentiating between age groups is important because it can help in both the respect factor and off-set the importance of longevity. For example, the oldest group is obviously closest to retirement and therefore automatically occupies the top five seeds. So who are writing the next chapter in hockey history? Who are the legends of today?
18 25 to 28 Age Group
17 Patrick Kane (26 years old), Chicago Blackhawks
There are very few players in the world with Patrick Kane’s speed and power. Kane has been lighting up the NHL since he was drafted first overall in 2007. The American born winger immediately helped the ailing Chicago Blackhawks turn their organization around in the right direction. He scored 72 points in his rookie season, won the Calder and has been padding his resume ever since.
Always a threat during the regular season, he is an elite playoff performer. In 2010, he scored the Stanley Cup winning goal against the Flyers. In 2013, he won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the best player in the playoffs during Chicago’s second Stanley Cup run in four seasons. He is a perennial point per game player and makes the highlight reel on a weekly basis.
Aside from a small legal issue stemming from a late night run in with a Chicago cab driver in 2009, Kane has been a model citizen. Although he is not the most active player off-ice, he has played in a Champs for Charity fundraising game and has links to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
16 Evgeni Malkin (28 years old), Pittsburgh Penguins
Evgeni “Geno” Malkin is arguably hockey’s best talent and has been since day one of his NHL career. In his first NHL game, Geno scored a goal on Martin Brodeur. His immediate success continued and he set a modern day record, scoring a goal in each of his first six games.
The beginning of his career was as controversial as it was spectacular. The 6-foot-3 center broke his contract with his KHL club, defected to the USA and promptly won the Calder Cup during his 2006-07 campaign. Malkin then helped the Pittsburgh Penguins secure the Stanley Cup in 2009 and picked up the Conn Smythe along the way. A three time all-star and Olympian, Malkin has added two Art Ross Trophies (2009, 2012), a Hart Trophy (2012) and a Ted Lindsay award (2012) to his mantle.
In player interviews, Geno comes off as shy and reserved. His quiet demeanour should not obscure the fact that he has a heart of gold. His charitable initiatives include Love for Lokomotiv, which was a program designed to support the friends and families of the victims of the Lokomotiv Yroslavl team plane crash. He also regularly donates his time at children’s hospitals and plays in charitable games. Yes, he even adopted a rescue kitten. It is only a matter of time before Malkin is ushered into hockey’s holiest of shrines.
15 Drew Doughty (25 years old), Los Angeles Kings
If there is one thing more important than personal accolades when discussing HOF selection, it is a track record of winning. Winning is something at which Drew Doughty excels. His hockey resume is a seemingly endless sequence of league championships and gold medals. Drew Doughty is the youngest player on this countdown. It is difficult to argue that a 25-year-old is already HOF material, but Doughty is the exception.
In 2010, Steve Yzerman surprised the hockey world when he selected Drew Doughty to Canada’s Olympic hockey roster. Doughty was only 20 years old and was playing in obscurity on the west coast, yet he was chosen over proven veterans like Mike Green and Jay Bouwmeester. Yzerman described him as a “thoroughbred” and never showed any doubt in Doughty’s playing ability. Doughty proved Yzerman right and was consistently one of Canada’s best players in Vancouver.
Since then, he has lived up to expectations by winning another Olympic gold medal in 2014 and has anchored the L.A. Kings defence to two Stanley Cups (2012, 2014). It is only a matter of time before Doughty wins his first Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenceman. Off the ice, Doughty organizes a charity softball game called Drew Doughty’s Grand Slam for Cancer. He also hosts underprivileged kids in his luxury suite at the Guelph Storm’s Sleeman Center. Even Don Cherry has compared him to his beloved Bobby Orr – the greatest defenceman to ever play and a member of the hockey HOF.
14 Jonathan Toews (26 years old), Chicago Blackhawks
Jonathan Toews is only in his eighth NHL campaign but he already has a lake in Manitoba named after him. Like Malkin, Toews started his NHL career in impressive fashion. He scored his first goal on his first shot in his first game. He went on to record a point in each of his first 10 games of the 2007 season. In 2008, JT was named captain of the Blackhawks. He was quickly dubbed “Captain Serious” for his business-like demeanour and leadership style. Despite the name, Toews and teammate Patrick Kane are known for their good-humoured off-ice rivalry.
Toews’s career is already HOF worthy. A three time all-star, he has led the Blackhawks to two Stanley Cups (2010, 2013) and is one of only six players to win a Cup and an Olympic Gold medal (2010, 2014) in the same year. He has won the Conn Smythe for best playoff performer and has added a Selke Trophy to his achievements.
Off the ice, Toews maintains links with Make-A-Wish Foundation, regularly visits children’s hospitals and he created the Jonathan Toews Foundation, which hosts an annual charity golf tournament in the Winnipeg region every summer. He is also the ambassador for Canadian Tire’s Jumpstart program. The only thing standing between JT and the HOF is another decade or more of success.
13 Sidney Crosby (27 years old), Pittsburgh Penguins
Sidney Crosby rounds out the top five HOF worthy players in the 25-28 year old category. He is, quite simply, a hockey prodigy. In his second NHL season, he became the youngest player and only teenager to ever win a scoring title in a North American professional sports league. He quickly led the Pittsburgh Penguins to a Stanley Cup Final in his first year as team Captain (2008). He would win it the following year.
Like all generational players, he has already scored a number of famous goals. In the 2010 Olympic gold medal game, he scored the winning goal in overtime against the United States. During the NHL’s first Winter Classic, Crosby scored the dramatic shootout winner in heavy snowfall to beat the Buffalo Sabres. Statistically, he boasts a career average of 1.38 points per game (807 points in 583 games). Additionally, he sports two Art Ross (2007, 2014), three Lester B. Pearson/Ted Lindsay trophies (2007, 2013, 2014) and a Rocket Richard trophy (2010). At 27 years old, Sid the Kid has played the better part of 10 seasons and was by far the best player in the league over that span.
He is the poster boy of the NHL and has done more charity work (in both his home town of Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, and in Pittsburgh) than is possible to summarize, but the Sidney Crosby Foundation is especially noteworthy. Sid is already a hockey legend and his place in the HOF awaits.
12 29 to 35 Age Group
11 Henrik Zetterburg (34 years old), Detroit Red Wings
Henrik Zetterburg edges out other all-stars such as Ryan Getzlaf, Rick Nash, Shea Weber and Joe Thornton in the 29-35 age group for one reason – consistency. Hank is no mystery. He is a perennial point per game player and has solidified Detroit’s center ice position for the past decade.
During a four year stretch between 2005 and 2009, Hank scored more than 30 goals per season, including a 43 goal season in 2007-08. Zetterberg led the Detroit Wings to a Stanley Cup victory in 2008 and won the Conn Smythe as the NHL’s best playoff performer. In 2006, he led Sweden to an Olympic gold medal in Turin. Even greater than his on-ice achievements, the Zetterberg Foundation sponsors charitable projects locally in the Detroit Metro area, and internationally in Ethiopia, Guatemala and Nepal. For this off-ice work, Hank was awarded the NHL Foundation Player award in 2013. Hank is truly an ambassador of the game and will be considered for entry into the Hockey HoF.
10 Patrice Bergeron (29 years old), Boston Bruins
Patrice Bergeron is often regarded as the most underrated player in the NHL. It seems he has held onto that title since he first entered the league in 2003-04. Ironically, the title of most underrated is, in itself, a level of recognition. Perhaps the reason he seems to lurk in the shadows of the NHL’s best players is that his offensive numbers are not altogether outstanding. That being said, Bergeron is the most defensively responsible centers in the game. Night in and night out, his line is matched up against the opposing team’s top line.
For his defensive play, Bergeron has won the Selke Trophy as the NHL’s best defensive forward twice (2012, 2014). Bergeron led Boston to a Stanley Cup in 2011, and scored two game-seven goals against the Canucks in Boston’s 4-1 win. Bergeron was a key member of team Canada during two Olympic hockey gold medals (2010, 2014). Like Zetterberg, Bergeron has also been very active with his charitable work. On top of visiting children in various hospitals throughout the Boston area, Bergeron also sponsors Patrice’s Pals, which is a program that invites sick children to Bruins games. For these efforts, he won the 2014 NHL Foundation player award. When Bergeron retires, his long-standing title of most underrated player will be erased and his true legacy, as one of the best two-way players ever, will be legitimized when he is ushered into the hall.
9 Duncan Keith (31 years old), Chicago Blackhawks
Duncan Keith is a two time Stanley Cup Champion (2010, 2013), a two time Olympic Gold medalist (2010, 2014) and a two time Norris Trophy winner (2010, 2014). Keith is only in his 10th NHL season, but is widely regarded as one of the best defencemen of his time. The Keith-Seabrook combination has long been considered one of the best shutdown pairings in all of hockey. Keith has accomplished all of this despite only being selected in the second round (54th overall) of the 2002 NHL entry draft.
Keith is also the founder of Keith Relief, a charity established in 2011 to alleviate the financial and emotional burdens of families and patients struggling through medical crisis. The assistant captain of the Blackhawks has already accomplished enough on and off the ice to be considered for the HOF.
8 Henrik Lundqvist (32 years old), New York Rangers
Henrik Lundqvist is the only member of the top 15 list that has not won a Stanley Cup, yet he ranks number two in the 29-35 category. Although the closest he came to Lord Stanley was as a finalist (2014), he has accomplished nearly every other significant goaltending feat. He has won everything from best dressed in Sweden to the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s best goaltender (2012). Lundqvist was nicknamed “King Henrik” by the New York media during his impressive stretch of winning more than 30 games in his first seven consecutive seasons. Already with 55 career shutouts, he ranks 20th all-time in that category.
Lundqvist is extraordinarily active in the New York community. Through the Henrick Lundqvist Foundation he sponsors an impressive variety of programs. His off-ice endeavours encompass a wide range of activities from community outreach programs in New York hospitals to education projects in the Dominican Republic. Lundqvist is the second greatest goaltender of his generation and will be inducted into the HoF when he retires.
7 Marian Hossa (35 years old), Chicago Blackhawks
Marian Hossa is best known for his dazzling offensive capability. After all, he is already a member of the NHL’s 1,000 point club and is consistently an offensive threat night after night. What often gets overlooked is his defensive capability. His career plus-minus is plus-213, which ranks him in the top 55 of all-time. He is one of the best penalty killers in the league and has 30 career shorthanded goals (20th all-time).
He is often awarded the responsibility of playing in a shut-down role during the last crucial minutes of tight hockey games. Hossa is one the NHL’s most dynamic and consistent hockey players, but he often gets overlooked because he has bounced around the league playing for Ottawa, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Detroit and Chicago. Hossa played in three consecutive Stanley Cup finals with three different teams, only winning in his third attempt (2010). He added a second Cup with the Blackhawks in 2013.
Hossa sponsors “Hossa’s Heros”, which is active in both the Chicago area and in his native Slovakia. For Hossa, the HoF is just around the corner.
6 36+ Age Group
5 Zdeno Chara (37 years old), Boston Bruins
Zdeno Chara is as elite as he is unique. A towering presence at 6-foot-9 and 255 pounds, Chara has been punishing NHL forwards since his early days with the New York Islanders. Admittedly, it took a few years to grow into his massive frame and mature into a responsible defenceman, but when he finally did the results were impressive. Chara is more than just a freak of nature, he is an intelligent hockey player and a gifted leader. He is the second European-born captain to lead his team to a Stanley Cup (2011).
Chara is a six time Norris trophy finalist as the NHL’s best defenceman and has won the award once (2009). Chara is also part of the 500-point club, achieving the feat last year. When the Bruins captain is not punishing opposing players, he can be found volunteering his time and money at the Children’s Hospital Boston. Chara’s contribution to hockey on and off the ice make him a shoo-in for the HOF when his playing days are over.
4 Martin St. Louis (39 years old), New York Rangers
Small in stature but big in heart, 5-foot-8 Marty St. Louis is one of the NHL’s most prolific goal scorers and inspirational players. Marty’s credentials are impressive. He has been awarded the Art Ross Trophy twice (2004, 2013), the Lester B. Pearson Award (2004), the Hart Trophy (2004) and the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy three times (2010, 2011, 2013). He also helped lead the Tampa Bay Lightning to a Stanley Cup in 2004.St. Louis is the most recent player to achieve the 1,000 point plateau and he is approaching the 400-goal club (381).
St. Louis is a heart and soul player as well as an active leader in his community. He participates in various charitable events and always makes himself available for a good causes. His three Lady Byng Trophies as the league’s most sportsmanlike and gentlemanly player demonstrates his strong character. When he becomes eligible, the HOF committee will not have to think long before inducting him.
3 Pavel Datsyuk (36 years old), Detroit Red Wings
The best way to represent Datsyuk’s illustrious career is to take a snapshot of his 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons. In each of those back to back seasons, Datsyuk posted 97 points and won the Selke Trophy as the best defensive forward in the game and won the Lady Byng as most sportsmanlike player in the league.
Pavel Datsyuk is arguably the greatest two-way center to ever play in the NHL. Datsyuk is remarkably intelligent with the puck and his stick-handling ability is unrivaled. His hands are silky smooth. Defensively, Datsyuk is just as strong and responsible. He currently has the 43rd best plus-minus in NHL history (plus-233). Remarkably, Datsyuk was only drafted in the sixth round (171st overall) in the summer of 1998. He emerged from obscurity during the 2001-02 season when he made the Detroit Red Wings out of training camp. His rookie season was punctuated by a Red Wings Stanley Cup win. His career progressed rapidly, and he helped the Wings win another cup in 2008. Datsyuk’s mantle exhibits three Selke Trophies and four Lady Byngs. Off the ice, Datsyuk is an active member of the Red Wings Foundation. Datsyuk is an NHL living legend and time is the only thing that stands between him and hockey’s shrine.
2 Jaromir Jagr (42 years old), New Jersey Devils
Jaromir Jagr is fifth all-time in NHL points and he’s still playing. Consider this: if Jagr had stayed in the NHL instead of defecting to Omsk of the KHL for three seasons (2008-2011), and assuming he would have scored a modest 40 points per season, he could easily be the second highest scorer of all-time behind only Wayne Gretzky. He currently ranks fifth.
Jagr is timeless. Hockey has changed substantially over the years and Jagr has witnessed every variation of it since 1990, including two lockouts. Jagr has played for seven different NHL organizations and has two Stanley Cups to his name. His records are too numerous to count, but include most game winning goals (125) and most consecutive 70-point seasons (15). To accompany his two Stanley Cups (1991, 1992) and an Olympic Gold medal (1998), he has won the Art Ross five times, the Hart once and the Lester B. Pearson Award three times. History is still in the making, but when Jagr finally decides to hang up his skates, the HOF will gladly put them on display.
1 Martin Brodeur (42 years old), St. Louis Blues
Chances are that when all is said and done, Martin Brodeur will go down as the greatest goalie in the history of hockey. Every time Brodeur straps on the pads he sets new records. Brodeur has played a total of 1,265 games, which is the most ever by a goalie. Longevity aside, what makes Brodeur so special is his competitive spirit. He won three Stanley Cups (1995, 2000, 2003) in four finals appearances with the New Jersey Devils. Brodeur won the Calder Trophy in his rookie season and has been amassing wins ever since - 691 wins to be exact.
Over the course of his 21 seasons, Brodeur has won the Vezina Trophy four times and the Jennings Trophy five times, all while raising money for various charities – most recently through the Martin Brodeur Foundation. At 2.24, his goals against average is one of the lowest in the history of modern day hockey. Tack on two Olympic goal medals (2002 and 2010), and Brodeur not only deserves his own display at the HOF, but perhaps a full room dedicated in his honour.
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