Ranking the Top 10 Candidates for the Hockey Hall of Fame's Class of 2015

Lyle Richardson@@SpectorsHockeyFeatured ColumnistNovember 30, 2014

Ranking the Top 10 Candidates for the Hockey Hall of Fame's Class of 2015

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    With the recent induction of the Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2014, attention now shifts toward the candidates for induction in 2015. 

    The notable NHL accomplishments of several hopefuls should ensure their induction in their first year of eligibility. Others on this list have waited several years for recognition, while some have waited decades. All would be worthy inductees into the Hall of Fame, but only a few will receive the honor next November.

    Here's a look at the top 10 candidates for induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2015. NHL career stats, honors and awards—as well as their records in international play—factored into this ranking. 

10. Sergei Makarov

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    Among the first wave of Russian-born players allowed to leave the Soviet Union to play in the NHL, Sergei Makarov joined the Calgary Flames in 1989. He won the Calder Trophy in 1990 as rookie of the year. Makarov played 424 NHL games and collected 384 points with the Flames, San Jose Sharks and Dallas Stars—including three seasons with 70-plus points.

    It's Makarov's international performance, however, that merits serious consideration for the Hall of Fame. From 1978-79 to 1988-89, Makarov was a star with CSKA Moscow and part of the talented "KLM Line" with Vladimir Krutov and Igor Larionov. From 1980 to 1989, he was the USSR's leading scorer in eight of nine seasons. 

    Makarov won gold twice at the World Junior Hockey championships, twice in the Olympics (1984 and 1988) and eight times at the World Championships. He would be a deserving inductee, joining fellow Soviet stars like Larionov, Vladislav Tretiak, Viacheslav Fetisov, Valeri Kharlamov and Pavel Bure.

9. Rogatien Vachon

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    Rogatien Vachon's NHL career stretched from 1966-67 through 1981-82 with the Montreal Canadiens, Los Angeles Kings, Detroit Red Wings and Boston Bruins. He was among the first notable stars in Kings history.

    While Vachon won three Stanley Cups with the Canadiens and shared the 1968 Vezina Trophy with Gump Worsley, his best seasons were with the Kings from 1971-72 to 1977-78. He was runner-up for the Vezina in 1975 and a Second Team All-Star in 1975 and 1977. Vachon also collected 32 of his 51 career shutouts with the Kings and was selected team MVP four times. 

    In the inaugural Canada Cup tournament in 1976, Vachon was tournament MVP and named to the All-Star Team. "Rogie" still holds the Kings' record for most career games (389) by a goaltender. The club retired his number 30 in 1985. Vachon is long overdue for induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

8. Paul Kariya

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    Concussion injuries cut short Paul Kariya's career, but he made his mark in 15 seasons with the Anaheim Ducks, Colorado Avalanche, Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues. In 989 regular-season games, Kariya tallied 402 goals and 989 points. 

    His nine seasons with the Anaheim Ducks were the best of his career. He teamed up with winger Teemu Selanne to form a lethal offensive duo. Kariya tallied 30-plus goals six times with the Ducks, including a 50-goal campaign in 1995-96. He also had five seasons with 80-or-more points, reaching the 100-point mark twice. 

    Kariya captained the Ducks for seven seasons, won the Lady Byng Trophy in 1996 and 1997 and was a three-time First Team All-Star. While he never played for a Stanley Cup champion, Kariya helped Canada win gold at the 1993 World Juniors, the 1994 World Championships and the 2002 Winter Olympics.

7. Alexander Mogilny

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    Alexander Mogilny was a rising young star in the Soviet Union when he defected to the United States in 1989 and joined the Buffalo Sabres. It was a dramatic start to what would become a productive 16-season NHL career with the Sabres, Vancouver Canucks, New Jersey Devils and Toronto Maple Leafs.

    In 990 NHL games, Mogilny scored 473 goals and 1,032 points. He became the first Russian-born player to score over 70 goals in a season (1992-93) and was among the last players to reach that mark. Mogilny also became the first European born and trained player to captain an NHL team. He had eight seasons with 30-plus goals and 60-plus points, reaching the 100-point mark twice.

    Mogilny won the Lady Byng Trophy in 2003 as the NHL's most gentlemanly player. He was named to the Second All-Star team in 1993 and 1996, and in 2000 won a Stanley Cup championship with the Devils. Mogilny also enjoyed success in international competition, helping the Soviet Union win gold at the 1988 Winter Olympics, the 1989 World Juniors and the 1989 World Championships.

6. Jeremy Roenick

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    One of the greatest American-born players in hockey history, Jeremy Roenick was among the flashiest scoring forwards of his era. He played 20 seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks, Phoenix Coyotes, Philadelphia Flyers, Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks.

    Roenick's best seasons were with the Blackhawks from 1989-90 to 1995-96, where he tallied over 50 goals twice and 100-plus points three times. While with the Coyotes from 1996-97 to 2000-01, he enjoyed two seasons with 30-plus goals and three with 70-plus points. Between 1991 to 2004, Roenick appeared in nine All-Star games.

    Roenick finished his career with 513 goals and 1,216 points, along with 122 points in 154 playoff games. He was also part of the 2002 U.S. Olympic silver medal team. In 2010, Roenick was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame.

5. Eric Lindros

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    Injuries prevented Eric Lindros from achieving the greatness expected of him when he was selected first overall in the 1991 NHL Draft. Nevertheless, his 14-season NHL career merits Hall of Fame consideration.

    Lindros spent most of his career with the Philadelphia Flyers, where he teamed with John LeClair and Mikael Renberg to form the "Legion of Doom" line. In 760 regular-season games, Lindros tallied 372 goals and 865 points. He also had seven seasons with 30-plus goals and eight seasons with 70-plus points. In 1995, he won the Hart and Pearson Trophies.

    QuantHockey.com indicates Lindros' 1.138 points per game ranks among the top 20 NHL all-time scoring leaders. He played in six All-Star Games between 1994 and 2000. Lindros also helped Canada win gold medals in the World Junior Hockey Championships (1990 and 1991), a Canada Cup title in 1991 and Olympic gold in 2002. 

4. Mark Recchi

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    In an NHL career spanning four decades, Mark Recchi was notable for his durability, leadership and reliability. Beginning his NHL career in 1988, Recchi went on to play 22 seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, Montreal Canadiens, Carolina Hurricanes, Atlanta Thrashers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins.

    During his long career, Recchi scored 577 goals and amassed 1,533 points. He tallied 43-or-more points in all but one of his NHL seasons (including three 100-plus point campaigns). He scored 20-or-more goals 16 times, including seven 30-plus goal seasons.

    Recchi was part of three Stanley Cup championships in three different decades with three different teams. He won his first title with Pittsburgh in 1991, his second with Carolina in 2006 and his third with Boston in 2011. He sits fourth all-time in games played and 12th in total points.

3. Chris Pronger

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    While Chris Pronger technically remains part of the Philadelphia Flyers lineup for salary-cap purposes, ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun reports the big defenseman is eligible for induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2015. Before his career was ended by injury, Pronger established himself as one of the most dominant and feared defensemen of his era.

    In an 18-year career spent with the Hartford Whalers, St. Louis Blues, Edmonton Oilers, Anaheim Ducks and the Flyers, Pronger amassed 698 points in 1,167 games. In 2000, he won the Norris Trophy as the NHL's top defenseman and the Hart Trophy as MVP, becoming the first defenseman since Bobby Orr to accomplish that feat.

    Pronger helped the Oilers, Ducks and Flyers reach the Stanley Cup Final, winning a championship with Anaheim in 2007. He was part of Canada's gold-medal teams at the 1993 World Juniors, the 1997 World Championships and the Winter Olympics in 2002 and 2010. Despite having a reputation for dirty play and eight suspensions during his NHL career, Pronger's overall talent remains worthy of the Hall of Fame.

2. Sergei Fedorov

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    Few NHL stars during the 1990s were as talented as Sergei Fedorov. Among the best Russian players in hockey history, Fedorov is deserving of induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2015. He spent 13 of his 18 NHL seasons with the Detroit Red Wings, becoming a key part of three Stanley Cup championships in 1997, 1998 and 2002.

    Fedorov won the Hart Trophy as MVP in 1994, becoming the first European-trained player to achieve that honor. He also won the Selke Trophy as the league's top defensive forward in 1994 and 1996. Fedorov became the first Russian player to reach 1,000 NHL points. QuantHockey.com indicates he currently holds the record for most goals (483) and points (1,179) by a Russian-born NHL player.

    On the international level, Fedorov was a key part of several championship teams. He helped the Soviet Union win gold at the 1989 World Juniors and consecutive golds at the 1989 and 1990 World Championships. He was also part of Russia's gold-medal team at the 2008 World Championships.

1. Nicklas Lidstrom

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    One of the greatest defensemen in NHL history—and one of the best Swedish players of all time—Nicklas Lidstrom is a lock for the Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2015 as a first-ballot inductee. In an era in which players frequently change teams, Lidstrom spent his entire 20-season career with the Detroit Red Wings.

    Lidstrom helped the Red Wings win four Stanley Cup championships. He won the Norris Trophy as the NHL's top defenseman seven times, second only to the legendary Bobby Orr. He was named to the First All-Star team 10 times. In 1,564 games, Lidstrom collected 1,142 points. He captained the Wings from 2006-07 until his retirement at the end of 2011-12.

    Lidstrom was the first European-born and trained player to win the Norris Trophy, the first to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP (2002) and the first to captain an NHL team to a Stanley Cup title. He also helped Sweden win gold at the 1991 World Championship and the 2006 Winter Olympics.