Picking the Next 25 NHL Stars Who'll Be Elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistAugust 3, 2012

Picking the Next 25 NHL Stars Who'll Be Elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame

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    When players are in the beginning or middle of their careers, a spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame is not something that is foremost in their minds.

    They are thinking about improvement and performing well in the most important games. An honor like earning a spot in the Hall of Fame is way off in the distant horizon and only comes to the greatest players.

    In this list, we look at both recently retired and current players who are on track for a spot in the Hall of Fame. In some cases, we look at younger players who have started their careers with brilliance, and we project Hall of Fame status on them.

    In most cases, players need brilliant numbers to get into the Hall of Fame, but there is also the intangible factor that must be considered. For example, a player like Pavel Datsyuk of the Detroit Red Wings may not have classic Hall of Fame goal totals, but when you watch him on the ice, you know that you are watching a Hall of Famer.

    Another player like Joe Thornton of the San Jose Sharks may have assist and point totals that warrant Hall selection, but his inability to perform in clutch playoff games keeps him from earning Hall of Fame status.

Defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom

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    Nicklas Lidstrom called it a career at the end of the 2011-12 season, and his time in the NHL was brilliant.

    The Swedish-born Lidstrom is the greatest defenseman in Red Wings history, and a good case can be made that he is the third-best blueliner in league history behind Bobby Orr and Larry Robinson.

    Lidstrom finished his career with 264 goals and 878 assists, with his most explosive season coming in 1999-2000 when he scored 20 goals and 53 assists.

    Lidstrom was a part of four Stanley Cup-winning teams with the Wings; he won seven Norris Trophies as the league's best defenseman and also won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the postseason.

    More than the numbers and the awards, Lidstrom was able to command the ice with his presence. He saw plays open up an instant before they happened and usually made the proper shot or pass that led to a key goal.

Goalie Martin Brodeur

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    If you listen to the current discussion, you can hear Brodeur getting dissed because he may no longer be as good in goal as the Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist, Jonathan Quick of the Kings or perhaps Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators.

    That may be correct, but it doesn't matter a bit. The Hall of Fame honor goes to players who have been consistently excellent, and that's just what Brodeur has been throughout his career. He holds nearly all of the significant goaltending records, and he ranks with the very best who have played the position.

    He has led the Devils to three Stanley Cup championships, and he's the league's all-time leader in wins, shutouts and minutes played. He is the active leader in goals against and ranks eighth in career goals against.

    If you need a big game to win, you can feel secure in your choice of goaltender when Brodeur is between the pipes.

Forward Brendan Shanahan

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    There's a lot more to Shanahan's career than handing out discipline to current NHL players for their on-ice indiscretions.

    Shanahan was a brilliant power forward throughout his career who could put the puck in the net, set up his teammates and stand up for them physically if that was needed.

    Shanahan scored 656 goals throughout his career and also added 698 assists. He is the 13th-leading goal scorer in league history.

    Shanahan was a key member of three Stanley Cup-winning teams with the Detroit Red Wings, and he also played for the Devils, St. Louis Blues, Rangers and the Hartford Whalers.

Forward Teemu Selanne

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    Teemu Selanne wasted no time to announce his arrival in the NHL. When he was a rookie with the Winnipeg Jets in 1992-93, he scored 76 goals and demonstrated that he knew how to play the game with incredible skill and finesse.

    One of Selanne's great gifts is the ability to carry the puck into the zone or take a pass from a teammate and get the puck into a shooting position to fire it at an angle that surprises the goalie.

    His ability to get rid of the puck quickly and accurately has always been one of his strengths, but when the goalie can't read the puck off the shooter's stick, it becomes very difficult to stop.

    Selanne is coming back for the 2012-13 season and he has scored 663 goals and 743 assists throughout his career.

    Selanne has played in 10 All-Star games and has been a first- or second-team All-Star five times in his career.

Defenseman Chris Pronger

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    Chris Pronger is never going to be perceived as one of the more popular players of his day. He's mean, nasty and difficult to play against. However, if he is on your team, you are quite grateful that he's wearing the same uniform.

    Pronger has solid career numbers—157 goals and 541 assists along with 1,590 penalty minutes—but it's the way he carries himself that makes him a future Hall of Famer.

    He doesn't care if you hold him in high esteem or not; he's going to make you respect him with his tough, physical style of play. If he hurts you by blasting you into the boards, he will enjoy it. He is there to win, and he is not trying to win a popularity contest along the way.

Defenseman Chris Chelios

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    Chelios started his career as a 22-year-old with the Montreal Canadiens and finished playing as a 48-year-old with the Atlanta Thrashers.

    Chelios came up to the Canadiens as a nasty, physical player who had solid offensive skills and enjoyed intimidating opponents. He refined his skills after moving to the Chicago Blackhawks, and he remained in top form when he went to the Detroit Red Wings.

    While Blackhawks fans were angry that he played with the team's archrival, there was no doubt that Chelios could control the outcome of a game with his hard shot and physical play.

    Chelios scored 185 goals and 763 assists while racking up an incredible 2,891 penalty minutes. He won the Norris Trophy three times and was also a member of three Stanley Cup-winning teams.

Forward Sidney Crosby

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    Crosby is by and large the standard bearer in the NHL as he prepares for the eighth season of his career.

    He was the No. 1 pick when the Penguins selected him in 2005, and he has more than lived up to the hype.

    Crosby is an unremarkable player from a physical point of view at 5'11" and 200 pounds, but he has a brilliant skill set that allows him to pass like Jean Beliveau and shoot like Bobby Orr.

    Crosby may not have the all-around talent of former-Penguin Mario Lemieux, but he has worked diligently for his greatness, and he has scored 609 points in 434 regular-season games.

    As long as Crosby stays healthy, he will be a no-doubt Hall of Famer.

Forward Evgeni Malkin

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    Malkin can be as good as he wants to be throughout the remainder of his career.

    There is nothing he can't do with the puck on his stick; his skill set is so incredibly high that he can create his own shot or set up his teammates virtually any time he is on the ice.

    Malkin responded to the Penguins' need for scoring and leadership when Sidney Crosby missed time in 2010-11 and the following year due to concussion-related issues. Malkin stepped up and delivered time after time, answering head coach Dan Bylsma's demands for consistency and domination.

    The only question about Malkin has been his inner fire, but he seemed to answer those questions with a 50-goal, MVP season in 2011-12.

Forward Jonathan Toews

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    Toews does not have the kind of eye-opening numbers that are usually associated with Hall of Fame players. However, his nickname of "Captain Serious" indicates what kind of player Toews is and how important he is to the Chicago Blackhawks.

    Toews demands the most out of himself and his teammates. He is a dominant defensive player, a killer in the faceoff circle, and he scores big goals for the Hawks.

    If Toews can stay healthy, he should be a top-five player in team history. Toews has scored 324 points in 361 games, but he should bring his average up to at least a point per game by the time his career is finished.

Forward Jarome Iginla

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    Iginla has been a classic goal scorer throughout his career. Whether it's whistling his wrist shot past the goaltender or establishing position down low where he can use his strength and deft hands, Iginla has proven throughout his career that he can put the puck in the net.

    Iginla has scored 516 goals and added 557 assists and also has 809 penalty minutes. The Flames have not been a dominant team throughout the majority of his career, but they did make it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2004 when the Flames met the Tampa Bay Lightning. While Calgary lost that series in seven games, Iginla scored a league-high 13 goals during that playoff season.

Forward Pavel Datsyuk

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    The numbers don't tell the story when the subject is Datsyuk.

    If you look at his career stats, you get the feeling Datsyuk is a good player but little else. That would be the wrong impression.

    Here are the numbers: Datsyuk has scored 240 goals and 478 assists. His career average is just beneath one point per game.

    However, in a pickup game of the game's best players, Datsyuk would be one of the first players taken because his skill level is so high. He is a brilliant skater, perhaps the best stickhandler in the game, an accurate shooter and a first-rate passer. He is one of the best defensive players in the league, and he is also dominant in the faceoff circle.

    He will be a Hall of Famer.

Forward Marty St. Louis

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    If there is a place in the Hall of Fame for exciting players, then there is a place for Marty St. Louis.

    The 5'8", 176-pound St. Louis from the University of Vermont has been a mainstay for the Tampa Bay Lightning throughout his career. St. Louis actually started with the Calgary Flames, but he never got much of a chance to show off his immense skill set.

    However, when he got to Tampa Bay in 2000-01, St. Louis started to assert himself on an every-game basis. St. Louis has scored 323 goals and 529 assists in his career, with a high of 43 goals and 102 points in 2006-07.

    St. Louis is all about speed, quickness and persistence. He will take the hit from a much bigger opponent and then spin and put the backhand in the top corner.

    He often accomplishes the spectacular with regularity.

Forward Alex Ovechkin

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    The numbers say Ovechkin is a can't-miss Hall of Famer.

    Few players have been as exceptional as Ovechkin in the early part of their careers. When Ovechkin was taken with the No. 1 pick in the 2004 draft, the Capitals knew they were getting a player with dramatic scoring potential.

    However, when Ovechkin put on his Washington uniform, he became a scoring machine. He exceeded the 50-goal mark in four of his first five seasons, reaching 65 goals in 2007-08.

    Many of the goals were of the spectacular variety, and Ovechkin's energy and passion were obvious every time he stepped on the ice. However, just when it looked like he was an unstoppable hockey force, he has been slowed each of the last two seasons. He has scored 70 goals in the 2010-11 and 2011-12 season combined, significant goal totals but far below his previous efforts.

    Still, you must be impressed by his incredible level of production. The Hall of Fame beckons.

Forward Vinny Lecavalier

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    Lecavalier has been the franchise player for the Lightning since he was drafted with the No. 1 pick in the first round in 1998.

    Lecavalier may not have developed into the "next Guy Lafleur," but he has been an honest and hard working player who was one of the difference makers for the Lightning when the they won the 2004 Stanley Cup.

    He remains an impactful player and is capable of producing spectacular moments. Lecavalier had a 52-goal season in 2006-07 and he has scored 373 goals and 469 assists in his career. As long as Lecavalier is healthy, he should continue to produce for the next eight to ten years.

Forward Henrik Zetterberg

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    Zetterberg is a player who is capable of providing artistry on the ice every game he plays, but he also has the fire and desire to become one of the Red Wings' key leaders.

    He has a leadership role already, but now that Nick Lidstrom has retired, even more will be required. There's every reason to think that Zetterberg will be ready for that aspect of the job. Zetterberg has scored 624 points in 668 career games. He scored 30 or more goals for four consecutive seasons from 2005-06 through 2008-09.

    He can get back to the 30-goal level this year. It's clear that the team will need that kind of scoring from him.

    He is a player with Hall of Fame credentials that should only get stronger.

Forward Daniel Alfredsson

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    The Senators got excellent news in the offseason when Daniel Alfredsson informed the team that he would be back for his 17th season with the team.

    Alfredsson has been a magical scorer for the Senators. He has 416 goals and 666 assists for 1,082 points in 1,131 games—all team records. He has also been solid in the postseason with 47 goals and 43 assists.

    Alfredsson has the ability to find the open spot in the defense and get rid of his shot with quickness and accuracy.

    He clearly has Hall of Fame credentials.

Defenseman Zdeno Chara

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    He is a huge man who plays an even bigger role for the Boston Bruins.

    The first thing you notice about Zdeno Chara is his 6'9", 260-pound frame. However, Chara has worked hard to develop his skills to match his size and make him the most effective shutdown defenseman in the league.

    If 100 players go into the corner to fight Chara for a loose puck, the Bruins' defenseman will win the battle 90 times. He's strong, powerful and determined.

    He also has one of the hardest shots the game has ever seen. He's clearly another in the long line of elite Bruins defensemen that includes Bobby Orr, Ray Bourque, Eddie Shore and Brad Park.

Forward Marian Hossa

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    They call him "Hoss" because of his size and strength. When Marian Hossa comes into the offensive zone with the puck on his stick, he is nearly an unstoppable force. He can fend an opponent off with his upper body and then drive to the net.

    Hossa has scored 417 goals in his career, and even though he took a hellacious shot from Raffi Torres of the Phoenix Coyotes during the playoffs, he should come back strong this year and approach 30 goals and 80 points.

    Hossa, 33, should be able to play for several more years, pass the 500-goal mark and earn a spot in the Hall of Fame.

Forward Mark Recchi

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    Mark Recchi went out on top.

    He decided to call it a career following the end of the 2011-12 season when the Boston Bruins defeated the Vancouver Canucks in a seven-game Stanley Cup Finals series.

    Recchi capped a brilliant career by raising the Stanley Cup for the third time in his career.

    Recchi had the knack for scoring key goals throughout his career. He had 577 goals and 956 assists and was known for his deft touch around the net. That allowed him to collect rebounds and score on deflections.

    He was a brilliant scorer who also had the ability to lead his teammates under the most demanding circumstances.

Goalie Henrik Lundqvist

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    Henrik Lundqvist was the backbone of the New York Rangers in 2011-12.

    He established himself as the best goalie in the NHL, winning the Vezina Trophy while recording a 39-18-5 record, allowing just 1.97 goals per game and stopping .930 percent of the shots he faced.

    Lundqvist meant far more than good numbers for the Rangers. Head coach John Tortorella knew that if the team scored two or more goals per game, the team had an excellent chance to win. Lundqvist is capable of shutting down the opponent every night.

    He has the size, technique and talent to remain at the top of his game for a long time and end up in the Hall of Fame.

Forward Zach Parise

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    Zach Parise was the heart and soul of the New Jersey Devils.

    He was an unstoppable force while wearing a Devils' uniform, and he led them to the Stanley Cup Finals last spring where they were stopped by the Los Angeles Kings.

    Parise is a dynamic skater and forechecker who can create his own scoring opportunities. He uses his balance, speed and hand-eye coordination to get rid of his shots quickly. He has scored 30 or more goals in five of the last six seasons. The only time he failed was in 2010-11 as a result of a knee injury.

    Parise should be a dominant scorer for the Minnesota Wild and should eventually make them a Stanley Cup contender.

    As long as he stays healthy, he's a sure-fire Hall of Famer.

Forward Steven Stamkos

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    Is it premature to call a 22-year-old player a future Hall of Famer?

    Perhaps, but when the player is Steven Stamkos, you have every reason to go in that direction.

    Stamkos is an explosive goal scorer who reached the 60-goal mark last year and has exceeded 50 goals in two of his last three seasons. Stamkos keeps his body in top shape and is always looking to get stronger.

    He has a brilliant wrist shot, a rocket-like slap shot and a deft backhand. He also excels at tips, deflections and scoring on rebounds.

    He also conducts himself like a 10-year veteran and is focused on improving.

Forward Claude Giroux

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    Giroux does not have the remarkable numbers that a young player like Stamkos has, but he is a remarkable talent who should dominate in the NHL for years to come.

    Giroux has the balance and stickhandling ability to create scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates. Giroux is the kind of player who can go on a hot streak and carry the team.

    Giroux had 93 points last year, and there's no reason to think that as long as he stays healthy, he won't reach at least that level on an every-season basis.

Forward Jaromir Jagr

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    Jagr signed a free-agent deal with the Stars, and he will play at least one more season in the NHL.

    He has a long history of achievement with 665 career goals and 988 assists. Jagr has won the league scoring title five times in his career and the MVP once. He also has two Stanley Cup championships to his credit.

    When Jagr was at the peak of his game, he combined speed, hands, strength, an array of moves and excellent shooting ability. While some of his skills have eroded, he still has the strength to get position in the offensive zone and torment goaltenders.

Defenseman Shea Weber

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    Weber has scored 74 goals in the last four seasons, and he is one of the best offensive defensemen in the game.

    Weber has an explosive shot; he can carry the puck up the ice and hit teammates with accurate passes. He also plays a physical game with a bit of nastiness in the defensive zone.

    The Predators thought enough of him to match Philadelphia's 14-year, $110-million contract. That's clearly a Hall of Fame number, and Weber has lived up to that status throughout the first seven years of his NHL career.