The Hockey Hall of Fame is the highest individual honor a hockey player can attain. It means that after their career is over, they were among the best to ever lace up a pair of skates and play the game.
The Hall of Fame selection committee will be announcing the Class of 2012 on Tuesday, June 26.
Last year's class included Mark Howe, Doug Gilmour, Ed Belfour and Joe Nieuwendyk.
There are many worthy retired greats the committee will be weighing to be part of this year's class. At most, four former players will be added to the list of hockey immortals.
Here is a look at the players most likely to join Howe, Gretzky, Orr and the rest of the greats in the HHOF in Toronto in order of the likelihood of their election this year.
Joe Sakic is a lock to be inducted in his first year of eligibility. He scored 1,641 points, which places him eighth all-time and he is also in the Top 20 in goals scored with 625.
Sakic was a longtime captain and won two Stanley Cups, a Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP, a Hart Trophy as league MVP and a Lady Byng Trophy as well.
The former Av and Nordique center had six seasons of 100 points or more despite playing much of his career in the "dead puck era."
Sakic has already had his number retired by the Avalanche and deserves immediate induction into the Hall of Fame as well.
Right now, Shanahan may not be very popular since he holds the thankless job of being the NHL's VP in charge of handing out suspensions, but he was one heck of a power forward in his playing days and influenced the game in a lot of ways.
Shanahan finished 11th all-time in goals scored with 656, and 25th all-time in points. He also had six seasons with 40 or more goals and a pair of 50 goal seasons. By the way, Shanahan also won three Stanley Cups.
Shanny was the prototype power forward and had 17 seasons with 100 or more penalty minutes during his career.
After the lockout, Shanahan was one of the most influential players in helping make productive changes to help get the game out of the "dead puck era."
Unless his current office alienates too many voters, Shanny should be a shoo-in for the Hockey Hall of Fame this year.
Mats Sundin should make the Hall of Fame eventually, but I would place the odds at 60-40 in favor that he gets selected in his first year of eligibility.
Sundin averaged a bit more than a point a game over the course of his career with Quebec, Toronto and briefly Vancouver, no small accomplishment in the "dead puck era."
Sundin has very good numbers to back up his candidacy. He ranks 21st all time in goals (564) and 27th in points (1,349). He also spent most of his career as the captain of the team in the media capital of Canada and was one of the most popular players in Leafs history.
But there are a few things that may delay Sundin's eventual selection. He never won a Stanley Cup and never won a major NHL trophy (he did win the Mark Messier Leadership Award in 2008).
Sundin deserves to get in this year, but he may have to wait a year or two if too many voters can't overlook the above-mentioned shortcomings.
Eric Lindros remains one of the great "what-if's" in NHL history. When he entered the league with the Flyers in 1992, he was immediately one of the more talented players in the game. He quickly became a dominant player, and for a brief time he may have been the best player in the game.
But just as quickly as Lindros burst onto the scene, his career was derailed by a series of injuries and he was never the same. Concussions forced him to sit out the 2000-01 season and he was just a shadow of himself after that, toiling in virtual obscurity for the Rangers, Stars and Leafs before hanging up his skates for good after the 2006-07 season.
In addition to his injuries, Lindros made more than a few enemies in Quebec when he refused to play for the Nordiques after they drafted him.
His career numbers are good: 372 goals and 865 points in 760 career games. He was the league MVP in the labor-dispute shortened 1994-95 season and was a first team postseason All-Star once and a second team All-Star once.
Is that enough to get him into the Hall of Fame? Eventually, it should, but Lindros will probably have to wait a little while longer than this year.
Pavel Bure would have been a sure-fire Hall of Famer if a knee injury didn't shorten his career.
"The Russian Rocket" was a force for the Canucks and Panthers, topping the 50 goal mark five times and twice scoring 60 goals in a season.
Bure helped lead the Canucks to the Stanley Cup final in 1994 where they lost in seven games to the New York Rangers. He scored 16 goals and 31 points in 24 playoff games that year to lead all players.
The Russian star won the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie in 1992 and won a pair of Rocket Richard Trophies as the league's top goal scorer.
Bure finished his career with 437 and 779 points in 702 NHL games.
In addition to his short career, the fact that Bure was a one-dimensional player will probably hurt his candidacy. He may not make it this year, but "The Russian Rocket" should eventually find himself enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Want evidence that the Hockey Hall of Fame values goals over assists? If they didn't, Adam Oates would have been in the Hall of Fame already.
Like any great setup man, he needed a goal scorer to make his talents truly shine. The best and most famous he had was Brett Hull and the duo was known as "Hull and Oates."
Oates had more than 90 assists in a season twice in his career and finished with 1,079 assists and 1,420 points in 1,337 games. Only Wayne Gretzky had more assists than Oates over the course of the 1990s and Oates is sixth all-time in helpers.
What holds Oates back besides the relative devaluation of assists is that he was never on a Stanley Cup winner and made only one post-season All-Star Team (Second Team in 1991).
Oates belongs in the Hall, but his wait may continue for a while longer before he is finally admitted.
"Cujo" is eligible for the first time this year and should eventually be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
He stands fourth all-time in career wins with 454 and is fifth all-time in games played. His career GAA is 2.79. Joseph was a fan favorite and a winner wherever he went.
Although he never won a Stanley Cup and never made a postseason All-Star Team, Joseph always played well in the playoffs and helped some less talented teams make strong playoff runs.
Critics may view "Cujo" as an accumulator and while he was never the best goalie of his time, he was in the top five for many years and his consistency should be worth something.
Joseph is a long shot to make it this year, but he does deserve induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Dave Andreychuk has been overlooked by the Hall of Fame voters but shouldn't be for too much longer.
Andreychuk scored 640 goals (14th all-time) and 1,338 points (tied for 27th all-time) in his 1,639 game NHL career. He is also the league's all-time leader in power play goals with 274.
He finally won the Stanley Cup in 2004 with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Andreychuk is one of those players who was never dominant but always very, very good. His time will come, but he remains a bit of a long shot for this year.
The voters made a huge mistake by not inducting Burns while he was still alive.
Burns was a three-time winner of the Jack Adams Award as Coach of the Year, winning it once with Montreal, once with Toronto and once with Boston.
He reached the Stanley Cup final twice as a coach, coming up short in 1989 with Montreal before winning it all with the New Jersey Devils in 2003.
Burns had only two sub-.500 seasons as a coach and finished with a career record of 501-353-165.
He died of cancer in 2010 at the age of 58.
Jeremy Roenick is one of the most popular players of his era and remains in the spotlight due to his television work.
"J.R." has good, but not great, numbers and is a better candidate as a personality than as a hockey player.
He is the third ever American-born NHL player to reach the 500 goal mark and finished with 513 goals and 1,206 points in 1,363 games.
Roenick never did win a Stanley Cup, never won a major NHL award and while he played in nine NHL All-Star Games, he never was named to a postseason All-Star Team.
He is in the US Hockey Hall of Fame, but probably will fall short of induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame, at least as a player.