Active NHLers Destined for the HHOF

You will often hear about certain players being labeled “locks” for the Hockey Hall of Fame (HHOF). If their career ended today, their current resume would be enough to get them into the Hall without any more games played.

Related: 7 Highly Questionable HHOF Selections

There are plenty of players like Leon Draisaitl and Nikita Kucherov that will almost assuredly make the Hall of Fame, but there’s still some work to do. If their current trajectory continues, they’ll absolutely make it. But as of right now, their resumes aren’t enough.

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By position and then alphabetical order, here are the 18 active NHL players that will be in the HHOF.

The Forwards

Nicklas Backstrom

Games played: 1,058(264-747-1011)

We start with a controversial name on this list, simply because Backstrom doesn’t have any individual hardware. However, he has a Stanley Cup, which is more than some others on this list have. He also has an Olympic silver medal.

Nicklas Backstrom Washington Capitals
Nicklas Backstrom of the Washington Capitals (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

He’s also played at nearly a point-per-game throughout his career and has 12 seasons with 50 or more points. While he may not always be the flashiest player, he is one of the best point producers in the game, as he has the second-most assists in the entire NHL since he entered the league back in 2007-08. So, while his name might not jump off the page as a HHOF lock, once you look into his statistics, you see a player who should find his way there.

Patrice Bergeron

Games played: 1,216 (400-582-982)

Patrice Bergeron will finish his career as one of the best defensive forwards to play in the NHL. He’s won four Frank J. Selke Awards to prove that, which is tied with Hall of Famer Bob Gainey for the most all-time. He’s also finished in the top five an additional five times.

On top of his Selke wins, he has also won the King Clancy Trophy, the Mark Messier Leadership Award and the NHL Foundation Player Award. To add to his cupboard, Bergeron also has a Stanley Cup and two Olympic gold medals. He’s part of an elite group known as the Triple Gold Club for winning a Stanley Cup, an Olympic gold, and a World Hockey Championship gold. He’s also won gold in the World Junior Hockey Championship and the World Cup. It’s safe to say he knows how to win.

Sidney Crosby

Games played: 1,108 (517-892-1,409)

Three Stanley Cups, two Art Ross Trophies, two Hart Trophies, two Conn Smythe Trophies, three Ted Lindsay Awards, two Rocket Richard Trophies, and two Olympic gold medals. The induction introduction writes itself. Plus, Crosby achieved all of that despite losing a great deal of time to concussions throughout his career.

Sidney Crosby Pittsburgh Penguins
Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

There’s no question that he has already carved out a HHOF career and it’s impressive to think what his resume could look like if it weren’t for his bout with concussions. He’s also a member of the Triple Gold Club.

Anze Kopitar

Games played: 1,210 (365-702-1,067)

The first Slovenian to ever play in the NHL, Anze Kopitar has become one of the best two-way forwards in the game. Between him and Bergeron, the Selke Trophy usually goes to one of them, with Kopitar winning two of them.

On top of the Selke wins, Kopitar has led the Los Angeles Kings to two Stanley Cups and has a Lady Byng Trophy to his name while earning votes for the Lady Byng trophy in 15 seasons. While being great away from the puck, he’s also led his team in points for the majority of his career.

Patrick Kane

Games played: 1,107 (430-750-1,180)

If the three Stanley Cups aren’t enough, perhaps the Art Ross Trophy, Hart Trophy, Ted Lindsay Award, Calder Trophy, and Conn Smythe trophy will do it. Patrick Kane is already a lock for the HHOF.

One of the all-time best American-born players, Patrick Kane is a future Hall of Famer. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

He’s in the top 10 for points by an American-born player, and since coming into the league, he trails just Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Alexander Ovechkin in points. He may just be the best American to ever play in the league. He’s a playoff performer as well, with a 0.97 points per game in the postseason, including five overtime-winning goals.

Alex Ovechkin

Games played: 1,274 (780-630-1,410)

Ovechkin might not be the human wrecking ball that he was earlier in his career, but he is still a human highlight reel. Few players in the history of the game have been blessed with the type of shot and explosive offensive ability that Ovechkin possesses. From any angle, anywhere in the offensive zone, he is a threat to score. There’s even a chance he catches Wayne Gretzky’s goals record.

Ovechkin is the only player in history to win more than two Rocket Richard Trophies – he has nine of them. He finally won a Stanley Cup in 2018, won three Hart Trophies, three Ted Lindsay Awards, a Conn Smythe Trophy, a Calder Trophy, and an Art Ross Trophy.

Evgeni Malkin

Games played: 981 (444-702-1,146)

When he’s healthy, Malkin is arguably the toughest player in the NHL to defend. His combination of size, speed, and power is truly remarkable. He’s like a freight train out on the ice. Unfortunately, he’s dealt with injury problems throughout his career that limited him.

Evgeni Malkin
Powerful and elite, Evgeni Malkin is a lock for the HHOF (Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

In the games Malkin does play, he’s a force. He’s won three Stanley Cups, two Art Ross Trophies, a Calder Memorial Trophy, a Hart Memorial, a Ted Lindsay Award and a Conn Smythe. Based on name recognition alone, he will be a lock to make the HHOF.

Connor McDavid

Games played: 487 (293-458-697)

There’s not much you can say about Connor McDavid that hasn’t already been said. He’s the best player in the world right now, yes, even better than Crosby, Matthews, or Ovechkin. Since entering the NHL at 19-years-old, he’s been a human highlight reel, showcasing his shot, hands, power, offensive creativity, and most of all super-human speed. He’s a generational player if there ever was one.

At the young age of 25, McDavid is already part of the 500-point club with a full trophy case that includes a two Hart Memorial Trophy, Ted Lindsay Award, three Art Ross Trophies (soon to be four), three Lester B Pearson Awards, and is a five-time All-Star. He was the youngest captain of the Edmonton Oilers at 19 years and 266 days and has posted five 100-point seasons.

Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid
Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson)

The only thing McDavid needs to complete his HHOF resume is a Stanley Cup, which could come as soon as this season. Even if he doesn’t end up slipping on a Stanley Cup ring by the end of his career, his regular-season accolades will be more than enough to get him in any way.

Auston Matthews

Games played: 407 (259-198-457)

While his career is still very young, Auston Matthews is already living up to his billing as the first-overall pick in 2016. Since joining the Toronto Maple Leafs as a 19-year-old, he has quickly gone on to become one of the premier goalscorers in the entire world.

The 2021-22 was his best season yet, as he posted 60 goals, won the Rocket Richard Trophy for the second-straight season and kept himself as a leader in the Hart conversation for the entire year. Given his age, there’s a real possibility that Matthews is just getting started, and that there will be many more records to fall as he continues his career. Now all he has to do is win the Stanley Cup as a member of the Maple Leafs to truly cement his legacy in the hockey world.

Joe Thornton

Games played: 1,714 (430-1,109-1,539)

His detractors love to point out his shortcomings in the playoffs but don’t acknowledge how strong of a point producer he is in the regular season. Thornton has registered at least 70 points twelve times. He’s currently 6th for games played all-time, 12th all-time in points, and seventh all-time in assists.

San Jose Sharks' Joe Thornton
Even without a Cup, Joe Thornton has earned a Hall of Fame induction (AP Photo/Josie Lepe)

While Thornton is still searching for the Stanley Cup, there’s no arguing his hockey resume. He has a Hart Memorial Trophy, an Art Ross Trophy, and an Olympic gold medal.

Forward Honourable Mentions: Ryan Getzlaf, Patrick Marleau, Leon Draisaitl, Corey Perry, and Steven Stamkos.

The Defensemen

Zdeno Chara

Games played: 1,680 (209-471-680)

Though Chara has won only one Norris Trophy, he has consistently been a top contender for the trophy over his career as a finalist six times. Every defenseman who has done that who is eligible has made the Hall of Fame. His leadership is not to be questioned as he was awarded the Mark Messier Leadership Award in 2010-11.

Zdeno Chara Boston Bruins
Zdeno Chara dominated the NHL for more than a decade as the Captain of the Boston Bruins. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

He was the anchor of the Stanley Cup-winning Bruins in 2010-11 and was the most important player on what was one of the best defensive teams in recent memory. The biggest player in NHL history, Chara dominated in his own zone with his physicality and reach. On the offensive end, his booming slapshot and occasional forays as a net presence on the power play made him a force to be reckoned with.

Drew Doughty

Games played: 1014 (132-435-567)

Ever since breaking into the league, Drew Doughty has been one of the best defenders in the NHL. He may just have one Norris Trophy win, but during his career, he’s received votes for the award in eight seasons, including four top-five finishes.

Doughty has bolstered his resume with two Stanley Cups, two Olympic gold medals, an U20 World Junior Championship gold medals, a World Cup gold, and a World Championship silver. With that list of accolades alone, he should find himself in the Hall of Fame when eventually retires.

Victor Hedman

Games played: 898 (134-469-603)

Victor Hedman might have started his NHL career at a turtle’s pace back in 2009, but has since become one of, if not the best defenceman in the entire league. His impressive blend of size, speed, and overall reliable two-way play has led the Tampa Bay Lightning’s attack for the past eight seasons. Since putting up his first 50-point campaign in 2014, he’s accumulated 374 points in 483 games and has filled his trophy case with a Norris Trophy in 2018, and the ultimate prizes of a Conn Smythe Trophy and a Stanley Cup in both 2020 and 2021.

Hedman has also led his country to a gold and bronze medal at the World Championship and two silver medals at the U20 World Junior Championship. Needless to say, with potentially years of dominant hockey still ahead of him, he will be a lock for the Hall of Fame.

Erik Karlsson

Games played: 838 (153-507-660)

There was a point in recent history where Erik Karlsson was the best defenseman in the entire league and it wasn’t even a question. Throughout the early stages of his career, he dominated in both the offensive and defensive zones, posting points at a historic clip while earning two Norris Trophies.

However, once he departed the Ottawa Senators for the San Jose Sharks, Karlsson’s career trajectory slowed significantly. Over the last few seasons, he has fallen out of the scoring races and Norris discussion, as injuries have reduced his time on ice and ability to take over games as he once could.

Erik Karlsson San Jose Sharks
While Erik Karlsson hasn’t maintained his historic scoring pace, he is still one of the best offensive defensemen of his generation. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

This shouldn’t discount the early parts of his career, however. Karlsson is still one of the top-scoring defensemen ever (He sits 31st on the list with a lot of time left in his career), and he has the natural ability to get back to his dominant play should he manage to get fully healthy once again.

While Karlsson is still looking for his Stanley Cup, he’s collected two Norris Trophies and an Olympic silver. He’s received votes for the Norris Trophy in seven of his 11 seasons. He’s also finished in the top-10 for the Hart Trophy four times. There’s a lot of history here for him, but he will need to reclaim his former glory to keep pace for the HHOF.

Duncan Keith

Games played: 1,256 (106-540-646)

Some may question whether or not Duncan Keith is a lock, but most don’t appreciate how consistently great he’s been over his career. Yes, he won two Norris Trophies, but he was exceptionally strong every other season. He just didn’t put up huge numbers in those years.

Averaging 31:07 in the 2015 playoffs, Keith led the Blackhawks to their third Stanley Cup in six seasons. His effortless skating, poise with the puck, and exemplary two-way play were remarkable. Only five defensemen in NHL history have won multiple Norris Trophies and a Conn Smythe Trophy: Bobby Orr, Larry Robinson, Brian Leetch, Nicklas Lidstrom, and Duncan Keith. The first four are all Hall of Famers. His two Olympic gold medals don’t hurt either.

Defensemen Honourable Mentions: Roman Josi, Kris Letang, and P.K Subban

The Goaltenders

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Games played: 365 (2.50 career goals against average, .919 career save percentage)

When you look at Andrei Vasileveskiy’s resume as a starting goaltender, you’ll see some truly staggering numbers. He’s been an absolutely dominant force in both the regular season and in the playoffs, earning five-straight Vezina nominations, including a win in 2019, along with the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 2021.

Andrei Vasilevskiy Tampa Bay Lightning 2021 Conn Smythe Trophy
Andrei Vasilevskiy after winning the 2021 Conn Smythe Trophy with the Tampa Bay Lightning. (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

The amazing part for Vasilevskiy, at only 27-years-old the best years of his career may still be in front of him. Given how he has averaged more than 35 wins a season as a starter and put together some of the best playoff performances in recent history, there’s a truly special career blossoming for the young Russian.

Marc-Andre Fleury

Games played: 939 (2.57 career goals-against average, .913 career save percentage)

It’s hard to imagine the hockey world without Marc-Andre Fleury. Since he was drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins back in 2003, he’s had one of the most prolific goaltending careers in NHL history. With a Vezina Trophy and three Stanley Cups to his name, he’s found a way to win no matter where he plays.

Fleury is one of only three goaltenders to win 500 NHL games, with only Hall of Famers Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur having more. He’s also played the seventh-most games all-time, with sixth place right in his sights. I think those facts alone, he should be able to gain passage to the Hall.

Carey Price

Games played: 707 (2.50 career goals against average, .917 career save percentage)

While Carey Price may lack a Stanley Cup on his resume, the 2014-15 season alone gave him all the hardware he needs. Not only did he win the Vezina and the William Jennings Trophy, but he won the Hart Trophy as league MVP and the Lester B. Pearson Trophy (now the Ted Lindsay Award) as league MVP as voted by his peers.

Carey Price Montreal Canadiens
Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

He’s been in conversation for the Vezina and the Hart on numerous occasions despite playing behind a fairly weak Montreal Canadiens team for the majority of his career. Add in gold medals at the 2007 World Juniors (where he was the best goaltender and tournament MVP), 2014 Winter Olympics (where he was the best goaltender, and the 2016 World Cup, and you’ve got yourself a Hall of Famer.

Goaltender Honourable Mentions: Sergei Bobrovsky, and Jonathan Quick.


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