NHL Players Who Have Improved Their Hall of Fame Credentials in 2015-16

Carol Schram@pool88Featured ColumnistJanuary 18, 2016

NHL Players Who Have Improved Their Hall of Fame Credentials in 2015-16

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    Each year, a small group of NHL players is inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. The criteria for selection to the Hall are not explicitly defined—players are chosen through a complex voting process undertaken by the 18-member selection committee. Broadly speaking, inductees have typically logged 1,000-plus games and played at superstar levels for a good stretch of their NHL careers.

    In 2013, Matt Pfeffer attempted to quantify various players' chances of getting into the Hall in an article in the Hockey News. His list of 23 "shoo-ins" includes 12 players who remain active in the NHL in 2015-16.

    Only four players are inducted each year, and the new candidates eligible for the first time must compete for nominations against long-retired figures such as Eric Lindros, Curtis Joseph and Jeremy Roenick, who have yet to be honoured. Defenseman Phil Housley got inducted in 2015, for example, even though he played his last NHL game in 2003.

    Though many of them are still years away from their retirements—and even further away from their inductions, here's a look at the players from Pfeffer's "shoo-in" list who have done the most to improve their Hall of Fame credentials during the current season.

The Others

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    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    Six of the players on Pfeffer's "shoo-in" list haven't done anything particularly special to further their cases for Hall of Fame election this season. 

    These performances range from subpar to simply standard. Inclusion on this list doesn't make them unworthy of the Hall—it just means this season hasn't bolstered their case so far. Younger players such as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, in particular, should have plenty of time to spiff up their credentials in future seasons.

    These stats are for 2015-16 so far:

    Patrik Elias, New Jersey Devils: age 39, 13 GP, 1-4-5

    Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings: age 37, 30 GP, 6-16-22

    Marian Hossa, Chicago Blackhawks: age 37, 43 GP, 8-16-24

    Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks: age 36, 43 GP, 9-25-34

    Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins: age 28, 43 GP, 14-22-36

    Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins: age 29, 44 GP, 19-24-43

7. Zdeno Chara

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    Tom Mihalek/Associated Press

    Age: 38

    Career Stats: 1,237 games played, 175-387-562

    What He's Done This Year: Over the course of his long NHL career, which started back in 1997, Zdeno Chara's best credentials for the Hall of Fame are the big minutes he's played for most of his career, his leadership as captain for his entire 10-season stint with the Boston Bruins and his ability to elevate his game in the postseason—most notably when the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011 and when they reached the Stanley Cup Final against the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013.

    This season, Chara has grown his legend by bouncing back after an injury-plagued 2014-15 campaign. With his 39th birthday approaching in March, Chara continues to lead his team in ice time and is on track for 45 points, which would rival his peak years. His leadership has also helped a Boston team in transition work its way back into the playoff picture in the Atlantic Division.

    Estimated Hall of Fame Timeline: Rumours of Chara's decline appear to have been exaggerated.

    Known for his outstanding conditioning, General Fanager indicates Chara has two more years on his contract after this season. There's no reason to think he won't play them out before making a decision about retirement at age 41.

6 and 5. Daniel and Henrik Sedin

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    Rich Lam/Getty Images

    Age: 35

    Career Stats:

    Daniel Sedin: 1,107 GP, 346-576-922

    Henrik Sedin: 1,136 GP, 220-732-952

    What They've Done This Year: Both Daniel and Henrik Sedin rank among the top 100 NHL players of all time in terms of point production, according to QuantHockey. Henrik's tied with Rick Tocchet for 91st overall while Daniel's tied for 99th with another active player, Shane Doan, who's four years older than him.

    The Sedins are also making their case as the greatest players to wear the uniforms of the Vancouver Canucks. Henrik became the franchise's all-time leading scorer when he tallied his 757th career point to pass Markus Naslund in February of 2013, per NHL.com. Daniel's next goal will bump him out of a tie with Naslund to become the top goal scorer in Canucks history.

    Further strengthening their cases, the heretofore-humble Sedins have shown plenty of backbone this season. Most recently, they got their revenge against the trash-talking Florida Panthers by ending their opponents' franchise-record winning streak on Jan. 11. By the time they retire, it doesn't look like any intelligent hockey fans will still be calling the twins "soft."

    Estimated Hall of Fame Timeline: The Sedins' game has always been driven more by brains than by speed or skill, which could allow them to extend their careers longer than most top-line forwards.

    Daniel sits tied for 12th in NHL scoring with 41 points while Henrik is tied for 25th. The only other player in their age range with similar production this season is Patrick Sharp of the Dallas Stars, 34, who matches Henrik with 37 points.

    Henrik left Vancouver's Jan. 17 game against the New York Islanders with an apparent shoulder injury, per David Satriano of NHL.com, but over the course of their careers, the Sedins have proved to be impressively resilient. Henrik spoke to the media after the game and said, "It's a new injury but we are not talking weeks I am hoping."

    Daniel and Henrik have two years left on their respective contracts, per General Fanager, which will take them to age 37. Don't be surprised to see them keep playing after those deals expire, which will delay their Hall of Fame eligibility.

    When it is time to vote for their induction, they may be hampered by their status as twins. Throughout their careers, they've always been a package deal, but each member of the selection committee can only nominate one player per year. Will they be split up, will an exception be made, or will the committee opt in favor of a less complicated nomination?

4. Jarome Iginla

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Age: 38

    Career Stats: 1,438 games played, 601-649-1,250

    What He's Done This Year: Jarome Iginla's big moment this season came on Jan. 4, when he became the 19th player in NHL history to score 600 career goals. He's second behind Jaromir Jagr in active goal scorers and third in points behind Jagr and Joe Thornton, according to QuantHockey.

    Thirty-seventh on the all-time points list, Iginla has a chance to move up another spot or two before the end of the season. His 601st goal tied him on the scoring list with Jari Kurri in 18th place. Iginla could best Dino Ciccarelli (608 goals) and Bobby Hull (610 goals) to move into 16th before the year is out, leaving him one spot behind his boss, Joe Sakic (625 goals).

    It has been a long time since Iginla collected an individual award. He picked up the Rocket Richard and Art Ross Trophies and the Ted Lindsay Award for his 52-goal, 96-point season in 2001-02 and added another Richard Trophy for leading the league with 41 goals in 2003-04. His rate of production has declined this season, but his overall body of work is impressive.

    Estimated Hall of Fame Timeline: Iginla has one more year on his contract with the Colorado Avalanche, according to General Fanager. Once that expires, he'll be staring down his 40th birthday when free agency opens on July 1, 2017.

    If Iginla's stats this year are a sign his age is starting to catch up to him, expect to see that Hall of Fame clock start ticking, which will make him eligible in 2020 after the usual three-year waiting period.

3. Roberto Luongo

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    Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

    Age: 36

    Career Stats: 899 games played, 420-343-33-76, 2.49 goals-against average, .919 save percentage, 71 shutouts

    What He's Done This Year: The oldest goalie playing in the NHL in 2015-16, Roberto Luongo has been named to the Atlantic Division All-Star Team thanks to a performance that's on par with his career peak with the Vancouver Canucks in 2010-11.

    Before the end of the season, Luongo will move into sixth place in all-time games played by a goaltender, passing Glenn Hall, per QuantHockey. He's also eighth all time and climbing in wins and 11th in shutouts.

    Estimated Hall of Fame Timeline: It could be a while yet.

    Per General Fanager, Luongo's in the sixth season of the infamous 12-year contract he signed in 2009 when he was with the Vancouver Canucks. Given the stiff cap-recapture penalties that will apply if Luongo retires early, per the Globe and Mail's James Mirtle, the Canucks in particular will cross their fingers that Luongo stays great in net and finishes out that contract, which will expire just after his 43rd birthday.

2. Alex Ovechkin

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Age: 30

    Career Stats: 804 games played, 502-433-935

    What He's Done This Year: Alex Ovechkin has hit some big milestones this season, which have gone a long way to cementing his reputation as one of the greatest goal scorers in NHL history.

    On Nov. 19, his 484th NHL goal made him the highest-scoring Russian-born player of all time, passing Sergei Fedorov. Then, on Jan. 10, Ovechkin became just the 43rd player in NHL history to have scored 500 goals, according to NHL.com.

    Still just 30 years old, Ovechkin is already third in goals and eighth in points among active players, according to QuantHockey. Every other player in the top 15 in points is at least five years older than him. The Great 8 is fast-tracking his Hall of Fame application.

    Estimated Hall of Fame Timeline: "Ten years? I don’t think I’m going to play 10 years," Ovechkin responded when Ben Kuzma of the Province asked whether he'd try to take a run at Wayne Gretzky's all-time record of 894 career goals before he retires.

    When players can still produce, they have a habit of changing their minds about when their playing days will end, so don't count him out. The next key date on Ovechkin's career calendar will be the end of the 2020-21 season, when he'll finish up his 13-year contract at the age of 35, per General Fanager.

1. Jaromir Jagr

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    Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

    Age: 43

    Career Stats: 1,592 games played, 737-1,097-1,834

    What He's Done This Year: Jaromir Jagr continues to defy Father Time with another outstanding season, his 22nd in the NHL. Jagr made his NHL debut in 1990—the same year Steven Stamkos, John Tavares and Erik Karlsson were born.

    Jagr leads the surprising Florida Panthers in scoring, with 15 goals and 32 points this season. He has also moved up to fourth place in all-time NHL scoring, surpassing Marcel Dionne, and he has two more milestones in his sights.

    According to QuantHockey, Jagr, with 737 goals, is just four behind Brett Hull for third place all time, and he's 16 points away from catching Gordie Howe for third place in the all-time points race.

    Jagr's production at his age is unprecedented. His career numbers are even more staggering when you consider he played three seasons in the KHL, starting in 2008, before returning to the NHL in 2011-12.

    Estimated Hall of Fame Timeline: Who knows?

    Gordie Howe retired in 1980 at age 52. Could Jagr challenge that mark, playing for another eight seasons before his name even gets considered for the Hall of Fame?

    All stats from NHL.com, current through games Sunday, Jan. 17.