The Hockey Hall of Fame is welcoming four new inductees this year at its annual induction ceremony. As the game honours its past, thoughts drift towards hockey’s present and the many talented players currently active in the game.
Here’s a quick glance at the five active players in the National Hockey League with the best shots of being inducted into the Hall of Fame when their careers end in the (in some cases not-too-distant) future.
To be blunt, Martin Brodeur may be the best goaltender in the history of the National Hockey League. Now 40, the Montreal native has played in the bigs for over two decades.
Originally drafted by the New Jersey Devils in the first round of the 1990 NHL Entry Draft (Trevor Kidd was the netminder taken before him), Brodeur now leads the NHL’s history books in games played, wins, losses and shutouts.
He’s also developed a reputation as a winner. He’s won three Stanley Cups with the Devils, won a pair of gold medals with Team Canada at the Olympics, and he’s a past winner of the Calder Trophy (1994), Vezina Trophy (2003, 2004, 2007 & 2008) and the Jennings Trophy (1997, 1998, 2003, 2004 & 2010).
When the Calgary Flames traded captain Joe Nieuwendyk to the Dallas Stars in 1995, they probably didn’t think that they were getting a future Hall of Famer in return. But that may be exactly the case.
A talented goal-scorer in junior with the Kamloops Blazers, Jarome Iginla (full name: Jarome Arthur-Leigh Adekunle Tig Junior Elvis Iginla) was drafted 11th overall in the 1995 NHL Draft and was traded that December to the Flames for a holding-out Nieuwendyk. He jumped straight into the NHL and completely transformed his game, changing from a pure finesse player into one of the dominant power forwards of his era.
He’s also developed a reputation as a leader (captain of the Flames since 2003) and a clutch performer (he was excellent in the 2004 playoffs and the 2002 & 2010 Olympic gold medal games). He’s also won more or less everything a hockey player can win, short of the Stanley Cup. Two Memorial Cups (1994 & 1995), a World Junior gold medal (1996), a World Championship gold medal (1997), two Olympic golds (2002 & 2010), an NHL scoring title (2002), two NHL goal-scoring titles (2002 & 2004), the Lester B. Pearson trophy for MVP as voted by the players (2002), the King Clancy and NHL Foundation Awards for humanitarian work (2004) and the Messier Leadership Award (2009).
And this is ignoring his 11 consecutive seasons scoring 30 goals or more and his status as arguably the most prominent player of African-American descent in the history of the sport.
Starsky had Hutch. Tango had Cash. Butch Cassidy had the Sundance Kid. And in the annals of the NHL, one of the greatest partnerships in history was Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr. Each was in many ways defined by the other. Lemieux was quiet and Canadian, Jagr was flashy and European. Lemieux was more physical, while Jagr was pure finesse. But once Lemieux left the game, Jagr continued to shine and proved that his success in the NHL wasn’t contingent on proximity to Mario.
Jagr is the 8th-highest scorer in the history of the NHL and has a very strong European resume, as well. He has served as captain for two NHL clubs and a KHL team. He’s been the NHL’s leading scorer on five different occasions (1995 and 1998 through 2001). He was voted MVP by the league’s players three times (1999, 2000 & 2006). He’s won Olympic gold (1998). He’s won two World Championships (2005 & 2010). And in his prime, he boasted some of the most epic hockey hair the game’s ever seen.
Oh, and he and Mario Lemieux won two Stanley Cups together in 1991 & 1992.
If I could put Chris Pronger into the Hall of Fame based entirely on him being a former Hartford Whaler, I would. Thankfully, the fact I don’t get a vote is out-weighed by Pronger’s excellent resume and history as a big, mean defenseman.
Originally drafted second overall by the Whale in 1993 (after noted NHL wash-out Alexandre Daigle), Pronger has played key roles on several NHL teams. He’s won World Junior gold (1993) and a World Championship (1997). He also has a Norris (2000), a Hart Trophy for league MVP (2000), two Olympic gold medals (2002 & 2010) and a Stanley Cup (2007).
While his tenure as captain of the Philadelphia Flyers has been truncated by injury – and his status as an active NHLer is the most tenuous of anybody on this list due to his concussion symptoms – Pronger is definitely the defenseman with the best shot at a call to the Hall.
Last but not least, we have the Finnish Flash.
Chosen 10th in the 1988 Draft, Teemu Selanne began his pro career in his native Finland before making the jump over the Winnipeg Jets. He scored 76 goals as a rookie, a record that still stands. Heck, seasoned NHLers look at his 76-goal rookie year with envy. He now sits 19th all-time in overall scoring and 12th in goal-scoring. Not bad.
Beyond his numbers, Selanne has won a bunch of things. While he lacks international gold, he’s won a Stanley Cup (in 2007 with the Anaheim Ducks). While he’s never been the MVP, he was the Calder winner in 1993 as most outstanding rookie, the Rocket Richard winner in 1999 for most goals and he won the Masterton Trophy in 2006 for commitment and dedication to the sport.
Selanne has the numbers and he has the longevity and resume to be a Hall of Famer.
Anybody missing from this list? Sound off in the comments or on Twitter @RyanNPike.
Ryan Pike has covered the Calgary Flames and the NHL Draft extensively since 2010 as a Senior Writer for The Hockey Writers and Senior Contributing Editor of FlamesNation.ca. A member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, he lives in Calgary.