NHL: Hockey's Future Hall of Famers
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The Hockey Hall of Fame is the highest honor any player can achieve. It signifies the accomplishments and heights that only a few have, or will, achieve.
The National Hockey League was formed in 1917 and thousands of players have donned an NHL uniform but only 247 have been honored with induction into the Hall. Some of the players so honored have included Howie Morenz, Rocket Richard, Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Steve Yzerman. Each era has seen some of the best of the best.
Congratulations to this year's inductees, Mark Howe, Joe Nieuwendyk, Ed Belfour and Doug Gilmour, who will become members of the Hockey Hall of Fame on November 14, 2011.
The present era certainly has future Hall of Famers skating in NHL buildings on a nightly basis which means each NHL division has some of the game's greatest players. Some divisions have only one or two players worthy of induction while other divisions have five or more.
In fact, a handful of teams may have up to five future members of the Hall. On the following pages, I take a look at the players we are fortunate to watch every time we visit an NHL arena or turn on our televisions.
Atlantic Division: Martin Brodeur
New Jersey's Martin Brodeur is, arguably, the game's greatest goaltender of all time
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Throughout the history of hockey, the teams that make up the NHL's Atlantic division have had some of the greatest players to ever lace up skates. It continues presently as the division has players such as Philadelphia's Jaromir Jagr and Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby, but it is New Jersey's Martin Brodeur who gets the nod as the next player to come out of the Atlantic division who will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Brodeur entered the National Hockey League during the 1991-1992 season on a call up basis. He won his first NHL game versus Boston and the start of a legendary career had begun.
The statistics speak for themselves. He ranks first in games played with 1,135 and most minutes played with 6,774. He has the most career wins with 625 and most career shutouts with 116. The 39-year-old also holds the record for most career playoff shut outs at 23.
Brodeur won at least 35 games every season between 1998-1999 through 2007-2008. It gets better. No NHL netminder, other than Brodeur, has posted eight consecutive 40 win seasons. He is one of only two puckstoppers to have been credited with a goal in a regular season and a Stanley Cup playoff game.
The accolades and awards are more impressive: 10 NHL All Star Game appearances, five Jennings Trophies (awarded to the goaltender(s) who played for the team that allowed fewest goals against in a season), four Vezina Trophies (best goaltender), one Calder Trophy (rookie of the year) and three Stanley Cups.
In international competition, Brodeur has represented Canada eight times, including four Olympic Winter Games. The Montreal native has won two silver medals (1995, 2005) at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships. He has added a silver (1996) and a gold medal (2004) from the World Cup of Hockey and two gold medals (2002, 2010) from the Olympics.
It is widely accepted that Martin Brodeur is the best goaltender the National Hockey League has seen. The statistics, awards, and championships speak for themselves.
There is a three year waiting period after a player retires before he is eligible for induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame. There is no doubt, the greatest goaltender of all time will be elected to the Hall in his first year of eligibility.
Northeast Division: Daniel Alfredsson
Ottawa's Daniel Alfredsson is one of the best European born players the game has ever seen
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The NHL's Northeast Division has some stars and future stars, unfortunately, it is not full of Hall of Fame talent.
Ryan Miller may receive consideration from the selection committee after retiring but he has not reached the Stanley Cup finals with Buffalo.
Another player who will also receive consideration is Boston's Tim Thomas. The Bruins goaltender has won two Vezina Trophies (2009, 2011), a Conn Smythe Trophy (MVP of the playoffs) and a Stanley Cup (2011).
He set an NHL record in 2010-2011 with a save percentage of .938. In the Stanley Cup playoffs, Thomas set a record for most saves with 798. He also set a new record for fewest goals allowed in a seven game Stanley Cup final (8). He became the first goaltender to record a shut out in game seven on the road of a Stanley Cup final. Except for the 2009 Vezina, all of those outstanding accomplishments were achieved in one season.
The player in this division who has posted career numbers that will ensure induction into the Hall of Fame is Ottawa Senator captain Daniel Alfredsson.
The Swedish forward holds franchise records for goals (393), assists (637), points (1,030) and games played (1,066). He entered the NHL in the 1995-1996 season and has played in 12 seasons with 20 or more goals.
The numbers do not stop there. The longest serving captain (12 seasons) in the NHL holds the record for most playoff games by a Senator with 107. The 38-year-old also holds the franchise records for most playoff goals (45), playoff assists (43) and playoff points (88).
Alfredsson was the 1995-1996 recipient of the Calder Trophy (rookie of the year). He has been a finalist for the Lady Byng Trophy for most gentlemanly player in 2002 and has been a finalist for the Selke Trophy, awarded to the best defensive forward, in 2006. The Senator has also appeared in five NHL All Star games (1996,1997,1998, 2004, 2008).
On the international stage, Alfredsson has represented Sweden in 12 tournaments including the IIHF World Championships (1995, 1996,1999, 2001, 2004, 2005), World Cup of Hockey (1996, 2004) and Winter Olympic Games (1998, 2002, 2006, 2010). He has medaled in five of those competitions including Olympic gold in 2006.
The only accolade missing from Alfredsson's resume is a Stanley Cup championship. He and his Senators teammates went to the Stanley Cup finals in 2007 only to be defeated by Anaheim.
Simply put, Daniel Alfredsson will be the next Hall of Famer to come out of the Northeast Division.
Southeast Division: Alexander Ovechkin
Washington's Alexander Ovechkin is one of the greatest Russian-born players in the history of the NHL
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The Southeast division is similar to the Northeast in that it has some great players but those players are not quite great enough to warrant Hall of Fame consideration. The Southeast has Tampa Bay's Martin St. Louis and Carolina's Eric Staal but the player who will undoubtedly be inducted into hockey's shrine is Washington Capital captain Alexander Ovechkin.
Ovechkin has the speed and skill that makes him, arguably, the game's most exciting and explosive player. He is also one of the game's most polarizing players. Fans either love him or hate him. Regardless of how one feels about the Russian superstar, the numbers cannot deny that Ovechkin will be a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
After an illustrious junior career in his native country, Ovechkin entered the NHL in 2005 after being the first overall selection by the Capitals in 2004 NHL Entry Draft. All he did as a rookie was score 52 goals and 54 assists for a total of 106 points. That output resulted in his being awarded the Calder Trophy. He was also named to the NHL's All Rookie Team and First All Star Team.
In the six seasons since that rookie year, Ovechkin has had season point totals of 92, 112, 110, 109 and 85. Overall, Ovechkin has produced 306 goals and 320 assists for 626 points in 486 career games. Those numbers have many in the hockey world believing the Moscow native is the best player in the NHL today.That belief is hard to argue with when one sees that Ovechkin holds 11 Washington team records and nine National Hockey League records.
The awards he has garnered began with the Calder trophy. Since collecting that piece of hardware, he has also added the Art Ross Trophy (NHL's leading scorer) in 2008, the Rocket Richard Trophy (most goals scored in a season) in 2008 and 2009, the Hart Memorial Trophy (Most Valuable Player) in 2008 and 2009, the Lester B. Pearson/Ted Lindsay Trophy (NHL's Most Outstanding Player as voted by the players) 2008, 2009, 2010.
Ovechkin has played in four NHL All Star games (2007, 2008, 2009, 2011).
Like all of our future Hall of Famers, Ovechkin has represented his country in international competition. The big (6'3", 230lbs) winger has worn the red, white and blue of Russia in 15 separate tournaments dating back to the 2002 Under-18 World Tournament. He has helped his teams earn medals in eight of those competitions, including World Championship gold in 2008.
Although he has contributed 50 points in 37 playoff games, the Stanley Cup has proven to be elusive up to this point in his career although he should be adding that to his mantel before he retires.
Alexander Ovechkin has amassed eye popping statistics and he is not close to ending his career. When he does hang up the blades, the numbers he will have at that time will be astounding and most certainly worthy of Hall of fame induction.
Central Division: Niklas Lidstrom
Niklas Lidstrom is undeniably one of the best defensemen to play the game
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The Central division could be the most talented division in the National Hockey League. The Chicago Blackhawks have three potential Hall of Famers in Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa. It remains to be seen just how good Columbus Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash will be but he has become a star despite playing on weak teams year in and year out.
Of course, it is the Detroit Red Wings who lead the list with as many as five possible future inductees and it is without a doubt that the player who will be a member of the Hall of Fame is the captain of the Red Wings, Niklas Lidstrom.
Lidstrom, selected by Detroit in the third round of the 1989 NHL Entry Draft, is in his 20th season with the Red Wings. It may be easier to list the records the 41-year-old defenseman does not hold. However, he is the holder of 11 team records, some of which include most points in a season by a defenseman (80), most post season goals in a career (54), most post season assists in a career (129), most post season points in a career (183), most post season games played (258), most games played in a career by a defenseman (1,506), most career goals (258), assists (860) and points by a defenseman (1,118), Best career plus/minus (431), most points in a single post season by a defenseman (19), most goals in a post season by a defenseman (6), and Best career post season plus/minus (plus-61).
As for league accomplishments, the native of Vasteras, Sweden is the first European born and trained blue liner to win the Norris Trophy (Best Defenseman). He is the first European born and trained player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy, to captain a team to the Stanley Cup, first European born and trained defenseman to score 1,000 points, first European born player to play over 1500 games, and he is the active leader in games played.
The awards and achievements are absolutely mind boggling. They include: 1992 All Rookie Team, two time Second Team All Star (2009, 2010), ten time First Team All Star (1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2011), 12 All Star Games (1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011), seven Norris Trophies, and four Stanley Cups.
Internationally, Lidstrom has represented Sweden nine times, including four Winter Olympic Games. He has won four medals, including gold at the 1991 World Championships and the 2006 Olympics.
The statistics bear witness as to why The Hockey News named him the second greatest defenseman in the history of the game in 2007. When Niklas Lidstrom retires, the Hall will be calling.
Northwest Division: Jarome Iginla
Jarome Iginla is the best player in Flames franchise history
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The National Hockey League's Northwest division is home to star players such as Vancouver's Roberto Luongo, Henrik Sedin and twin brother Daniel, Colorado's Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Minnesota's Devin Setoguchi, Edmonton's Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Calgary's Olli Jokinen and Mikka Kiprusoff, but there is one player who stands head and shoulders above all of the players in the division and that is Jarome Iginla.
Iginla, the captain of the Flames, was drafted by Dallas in the first round (11th overall) in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft. He was traded to Calgary soon after the draft. He appeared in his first NHL game for the Flames in 1996. Since that game, the native of Edmonton, Alberta has established new franchise records for most career games played (1,118), most career goals (488) and most career points (1,013). Iginla is second only to former Flame Al MacInnis in career assists.
The 34-year-old winger led his club to the 2004 Stanley Cup finals versus the Tampa Bay Lightning. Unfortunately, for Iginla and his teammates, the Lightning won hockey's holy grail in seven games. Iginla finished first in the playoffs in goal scoring with 13 lamp lighters. Over the course of his career, he has played in 54 playoff games and has totals of 28 goals and 21 assists for 49 points.
The big (6' 1", 210 lbs) forward has garnered several NHL awards such as the league's All Rookie Team in 1997, First All-Star Team (2002, 2008, 2009), Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy (2002, 2004), Art Ross Trophy (2002), Lester B. Pearson Award (2002), NHL Second All Star Team (2004), King Clancy Award for the "player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and who has made a significant humanitarian contribution to his community" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Clancy_Memorial_Trophy) (2004), NHL Foundation Player Award which is awarded to the player who best exemplifies teamwork, commitment, and perseverance in his community (2004) and the Mark Messier Leadership Award (2009).
Iginla is another athlete who has represented his country and to say that he has done it well is an understatement; He has worn the red and white of Canada six times including the World Junior Championships (1996), World Championships (1997), World Cup of Hockey (2004) and Winter Olympic Games (2002, 2010). It is no coincidence that he has donned a gold medal in all six tournaments.
At 34 years of age, Jarome Iginla may or may not be nearing the end of his career. His current contract expires at the end of the 2012-2013 season and he is not making it known whether he will continue to play or hang up his skates but there can be no confusion that when Iginla's career does come to an end, he will take up residence in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Pacific Division: Teemu Selanne
Anaheim's Teemu Selanne is the quintessential Hall of Fame candidate
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The Pacific division is full of high-end talent, especially on the three California teams (Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose). However there can be no argument that the player who is an absolute sure thing for Hall of Fame enshrinement is Teemu Selanne of the Anaheim Ducks.
He stepped into the National Hockey League in 1992-1993 with the Winnipeg Jets and had one of the greatest rookie seasons the league has ever seen by scoring an astounding 76 goals (setting a new NHL rookie goal scoring record) and 56 assists for 132 points (also a new NHL rookie record). That offensive production earned Selanne the Calder Trophy as the NHL's rookie of the year.
The native of Finland has been a much sought after commodity and has performed for four different franchises including two go-rounds in Anaheim. Along the way, he has set 11 NHL records, nine Anaheim franchise records and two Winnipeg/Phoenix records for a total of 22.
The accolades have been in abundance as well. Selanne, along with the Calder Trophy, has been a member of the All-Rookie Team (1993), NHL First All-Star Team (1993, 1997), NHL Second All-Star Team (1998, 1999), 10 NHL All-Star games (1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2007), NHL All-Star game MVP (1998), Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy (1999, also tied for most goals scored in 1993 and 1998), and the William Masterton Award, which goes to the player who best exemplifies perseverance, dedication and sportsmanship in hockey (2006).
Two of Selanne's greatest accomplishments occurred in 2007 when he hoisted the Stanley Cup as a member of the Anaheim Ducks and on March 21, 2010 when he scored his 600th career goal. With that goal, the 41-year-old winger became just the third European born player to score 600 goals in a career.
Selanne currently has career, regular season production numbers of 642 goals and 712 assists culminating in 1,354 points in 1,273 games.
In 11 trips to the Stanley Cup playoffs, Selanne has played in 111 games and contributed 41 goals and 38 assists for 79 points. 10 of his 41 goals have been game winners proving how valuable he is in crunch time.
In international play, the native of Helsinki, has represented Finland 13 times which include, one Canada Cup tournament, two World Cup of Hockey tournaments, five World Championships and five Winter Olympic Games. To no one's surprise, he has medaled in five of those competitions with three (two bronze, one silver) coming from the Olympics.
Selanne will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2011-2012 season. He, like Iginla, has not revealed his plans for when his contract expires. If he chooses retirement, it would be of no surprise to anyone in the hockey world if the Hall of Fame selection committee waive the rule stating that a player is not eligible for enshrinement until he has been retired for three years. In recent history, the committee elected to do so for Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux. The committee should do the same for Teemu Selanne.