Next year could see one of the best Hall of Fame classes ever, and one that could definitely rival 2007's great class that included Mark Messier, Ron Francis, Scott Stevens, and Al McInnis.
Players who are in their first year of eligibility include Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull, Luc Robitaille, Dave Andreychuk, Alexander Mogilny, and Brian Leetch. All would seem to be a lock for the class of 2009, but only four players can be inducted in a year; so who are the odd men out? I'd have to go with Andreychuk and Mogilny.
Yzerman shouldn't even be a discussion. He was captain of the Red Wings for 20 seasons, and he ranks eighth in goals, seventh in assists, sixth in points, and ninth in playoff points. He won three Stanley Cups, a gold medal, and a Conn Smythe in 1998. The list of his accomplishments goes on.
Hull is another definite. When he came into the NHL he wasn't expected to be like his father, or even a goal scorer. Hull came into his own in the 1990s and became one of the most natural pure goal scorers in the NHL.
He led the NHL in goals from 1989-1992, posting 72, 86, and 70 in those seasons. He finished his career scoring 741 goals and 1,391 points. He captured two Stanley Cups; one with the Dallas Stars and one with the Detroit Red Wings. He didn't just match his father's goal-scoring ability; he perfected it. When he is inducted into the Hall of Fame, he and his father will be the first father and son in the Hall of Fame.
I'd pick Robitaille over Andreychuk because Lucky Luc currently holds most of the records for a left winger. He is the all-time leading scorer among left wingers with 1,394 points, and also leads left wingers in goals in a career with 668. He won a Stanley Cup in Detroit in 2002 and, aside from Gretzky, has been the most important player to ever wear a Kings jersey—even more than Marcel Dionne—playing over 1,000 games for the club.
Leetch was probably one of the best defensemen in the 1990s. He was a very important part when the Rangers ended their 54-year cup drought in 1994. He scored 11 goals and 34 points to lead all players in the postseason, which earned him the Conn Smythe. He became the fifth defenseman to score more than 100 points in a season and is the only American to do so, as well. He's won three Norris trophies as the best defenseman in the NHL in his career.
He currently holds every club record by a defenseman for the Rangers, and also holds the record for career assists and those for most points, assists, and power play goals in a single season. Leetch is one of the most valuable players to ever wear a Rangers jersey in the team's long history. No one has left a more lasting impression in NYC than Leetch did with the Rangers.
Long before Alexander Ovechkin became "Alex the Great," Mogilny was already being called that. He played on one of the most dominant lines to ever grace the World Junior Championship along with fellow countrymen Sergei Fedorov and Pavel Bure. He's a triple crown winner, winning a gold medal with Russia in 1988, a world cup in 1989, and a Stanley Cup in 2000.
Mogilny was the all-time leader in goals by a Russian-born player until this season, when Sergei Fedorov passed him. It took Mogilny only 990 games to score 473 goals, as it took Fedorov 1,204 to pass him. Mogilny scored 76 goals in 1992-1993 season, but he would only top the 50-goal mark one more time in his injury-plagued career.
He finished his career with 1,032 points in 990 games. He was one of the most dominant Russian players to ever play in the NHL.
Andreychuk finished his career with the fifth most games played, at 1,639. He was also 11th in goals with 640, and tied for 23rd for most points, with 1,338. He holds the record for most power play goals in a career with 270, and oldest player to make an appearance in the Stanley Cup finals, in 2004. He won the cup that year for the first time in his career.
All these men deserve to be in the Hall of Fame, but only four players can be inducted in a single year. Out of the players in their first year of eligibility, Andreychuk and Mogilny will likely have to wait another year or so to be inducted. Other players who are still waiting could be argued more deserving than those two, such as Adam Oates, Mike Vernon, Phil Housley, and Pavel Bure, among others.