NHL

Which current NHL players will make the Hockey Hall of Fame?

Which current NHL players will make the Hockey Hall of Fame?

You would absolutely hate my Hockey Hall of Fame. It would be more exclusive than a dating app for single billionaires.

In the current setup, too many mortals are granted immortality. To be enshrined with the likes of Mario Lemieux, Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr and Nicklas Lidstrom is to be counted as one of the greatest athletes in professional sports history. Not a compiler. Not a coattail rider. Someone who defined their NHL era and, in the process, redefined aspects of the game.

The current active players that would make my Hockey Hall of Fame: Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Patrice Bergeron, Victor Hedman and Connor McDavid.

Crosby is the most dominant, complete player of his era. Given that era, I think he easily cracks the top 10 forwards all-time and could even be in the top 5. Also given that era, Ovechkin is the best goal-scorer in NHL history, with or without shattering Gretzky’s career mark.

Bergeron doesn’t have the same level of statistical impact, but he’s going to retire as the best defensive center of all time, who was the engine for one of his era’s most constantly great teams. Hedman and Erik Karlsson both climbed the ladder to grab Lidstrom’s vacant “NHL’s top defenseman” title simultaneously, but Karlsson slipped back down to the ring canvas. Hedman wore that belt through six straight Norris Trophy nominations, one win, a Conn Smythe and back-to-back Stanley Cups.

(Karlsson still holds the briefcase with a contract for an eventual rematch.)

I know there are some that will believe it’s way too early to bestow this honor on McDavid, who has played 503 games in eight seasons. I’d argue that with 729 points in those games, two MVP trophies (and four times as a finalist), McDavid has had one of the most dominant multiseason runs in sports history, full stop. He could be Thanos-snapped out of existence tomorrow, and would have had a Hall of Fame career, both in dominance and influence.

There are two players not currently in the NHL for whom I’d unhook the velvet rope to my Hall of Fame: Zdeno Chara, a singular talent and unparalleled defensive force in his era; and, of course, Jaromir Jagr, whose candidacy for the actual Hall of Fame I wholeheartedly endorse when he retires in 2045.

But look, I get it. The Hockey Hall of Fame is the ultimate “remembering some guys” nostalgia trip, and a self-perpetuating business that’s reliant on annual induction ceremonies. Mingled among the elite are the excellent, the very good and the friends of Selection Committee members. It’s less pantheon than honor society.

There will be a considerable number of current NHL players that enter the Hockey Hall of Fame when their playing days are done. The criteria for enshrinement are clandestine, confusing and controversial, thanks to a Selection Committee whose motivations and justifications are slightly more opaque than those of the CIA.

Paul Pidutti is trying to change that on his site Adjusted Hockey. The Sudbury, Ontario, resident is an accountant by trade and a Hall of Fame geek by nature. So he started crunching numbers of Hall of Fame-worthiness and invented a unique statistical measurement of a player’s candidacy, which he humbly called the Pidutti Point Share system.

(Coming up with a hockey stat is like discovering a comet: You see it first, your name goes on it. Jim Corsi is our Edmond Halley.)

His initial tests of the system found that longevity was weighed unfairly.

“I just kind of tried to find the balance where the guys with truly outstanding peaks would slide up the rankings to where I thought they belonged. Because I was very uninterested in whether or not someone had five more 50-point seasons when they were 33 to 37, that kind of thing. I find those are compilers,” he told me this week. “So I tried very hard to find a formula and a mix of these things that would balance. And then when I finally got there, I said, ‘This is a list that smells right.'”

His formula is complicated. The methodology “uses neutralized information to account for the evolution of the NHL’s scoring environment, season length, roster size, demographics, and playoff structure.” Its data points include career value, peak value, pace value and then “bonus value” that incorporate things like the Stanley Cup Playoffs and international tournaments — events where the 2022 Hockey Hall of Fame class of NHL players, for example, won their only championships.

To make this digestible for fans, he creates player cards:

There are a couple of general labels that Pidutti uses for his Hall of Fame candidates. There’s the “inner circle,” which covers the true legends; and then there’s “the standard” that players have to meet or exceed for his endorsement.

For example: Jagr is in his inner circle. Former NHL defensemen like Shea Weber, Duncan Keith and P.K. Subban exceed the standard. Former Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask is just below it.

In speaking with Pidutti, and using our own projections, here is the latest tiered ranking of current NHL players and their Hall of Fame prospects:

Absolute locks

Patrice Bergeron
Sidney Crosby*
Marc-Andre Fleury
Victor Hedman
Anze Kopitar
Evgeni Malkin*
Brad Marchand
Connor McDavid
Alex Ovechkin*
Patrick Kane
Steven Stamkos
Joe Thornton
Jonathan Toews

The players with an asterisk are on Pidutti’s “inner circle” list, which includes Malkin. “He’s got the seventh-highest pace for points in his own era in NHL history. I think he’s a guy that’s really overlooked,” Pidutti said of the Pittsburgh Penguins great.

He’s less enthused about a former Penguin in Marc-Andre Fleury, who is currently third all-time in career wins and 25 away from catching Patrick Roy (551) for second most all-time. “By the numbers, I have him in. He’s above the standard, but borderline,” said Pidutti.

Kopitar exceeds the standard. Toews “actually does really well in my ranking,” said Pidutti, who likens his candidacy to that of 2022 Hall of Fame inductee Daniel Alfredsson. “But he’s also qualified because of the whole reputation thing and making the NHL 100. So I think he’s going in first ballot,” he said.

Then there’s Marchand. As he’s grown, so has the respect for his Hall of Fame case as the second-best left wing of his era behind Ovechkin.

“He has played 13 years in the NHL. In a neutral era, he’s got 36 goals and 80 points per season, which very, very few people have done,” Pidutti said. “So he’s elite on production alone. He’s still really good and he’s gonna add to this.”

Like me, Pidutti believes McDavid is already a Hall of Famer despite the lack of experience. Others, however, need more games.


On the way

Leon Draisaitl
Nikita Kucherov
Auston Matthews
Nathan MacKinnon
Andrei Vasilevskiy

Pidutti said the forwards listed here have all passed the standard statistically but just need to hit “700 or 800 games” for Hall of Fame qualification.

Intangibles get really interesting with this group. MacKinnon got his Stanley Cup last season. Kucherov has two. Both led the playoffs in a scoring category during those runs. Vasilevskiy’s postseason prowess is the best since Martin Brodeur’s. Matthews and Draisaitl have individual awards, but haven’t played for a championship.

For me, Kucherov is the closest one to a lock here. Pidutti agrees, comparing his playoff scoring pace to names like Gretzky and Bryan Trottier.

“That even caused me to pause. I think he’s awesome,” he said. “He’s a 94-point player over his career neutralized, which that’s like rarefied air, no question.”


Veteran “maybes”

Nicklas Backstrom
Brent Burns
Drew Doughty
Claude Giroux
Kris Letang
Phil Kessel
Jonathan Quick
Joe Pavelski
Corey Perry
Carey Price
Eric Staal

Pidutti’s model isn’t that kind to the Los Angeles Kings veterans here: Doughty rates out lower than players like Kessel, Staal, Perry and Backstrom, while Quick “rates poorly.” I’d say Doughty has a much better shot, winning the Norris and finishing as a finalist four times.

He said most of these players are “borderline.” Giroux is a “Hall of Very Good” player, for example. But three names intrigue Pidutti. Price has exceeded the standard and has a strong international case as well. He believes Burns is going to “leap up” from his borderline standing. “I actually hope he gets in because when I looked at him closely, he was way better than everyone wants to remember,” he said.

The other one is Perry.

“He’s right at the upper end of borderline. I do this annually, so he probably should pass into qualified,” he said. “That surprises me a little bit. But he was a fixture on Team Canada. He did get the Hart Trophy, he’s got a Cup. His numbers don’t jump off the page, but he’s also played a long time too, so they’re declining.”


Primetime “maybes”

Sergei Bobrovsky
Jack Eichel
Erik Karlsson
Roman Josi
Artemi Panarin
David Pastrnak
Alex Pietrangelo
Mikko Rantanen
John Tavares

Pidutti has Karlsson above the standard for the Hall of Fame, but feels that both the San Jose Sharks star and Pietrangelo from the Vegas Golden Knights need one more huge campaign. “They aren’t too far off. If they could have some Norris-type seasons on the back end, they might slip into the conversation,” he said. (Karlsson might be in the midst of one.)

Josi has a Norris Trophy, and Pidutti has him in the same neighborhood as Burns. Please note that every eligible player that’s won the Norris is in the Hall of Fame except for Randy Carlyle. While Pidutti doesn’t have Josi as a lock yet, he said the only Norris winner he doesn’t expect to make the Hall is Mark Giordano of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Meanwhile, only one goalie in NHL history has won two Vezina Trophies (under the current criteria since 1981) and not gotten into the Hall: Tim Thomas. Bobrovsky also has two.

Panarin, Pastrnak and Rantanen are all building impressive stats cases. Tavares already built a strong stats case that will continue to strengthen, and Pidutti believes there’s still work to do.

“I didn’t have John as a lock,” he said. “I think he’s definitely in that conversation, but I didn’t think he was necessarily on the same level as the guys that are on my lock list.”


The next generation

Rasmus Dahlin
Adam Fox
Jack Hughes
Cale Makar
Igor Shesterkin

Finally, a look ahead at the next generation of potential Hall of Famers. Three of them already have individual hardware. Hughes and Dahlin are both having breakout campaigns. There are others that’ll join this list as they find their strides. In a few years, Pidutti will need to make cards for them, too.

Hall of Fame debates are a blast. Having them about the Hockey Hall of Fame can be challenging, because of the behind-closed-doors process of the Selection Committee. To that end, Pidutti has one request of that group:

“Tell us who the 16 people are that you’re talking about nominating that year. You don’t have to say, ‘This person’s nominating that person and they got zero votes.’ Just say who’s in the conversation at a minimum,” he said.

Jersey Foul of the week

From the New Jersey Devils, a combination bobblehead of team captain Nico Hischier and beloved Devils alumni/broadcaster Chico Resch wearing their Reverse Retro jerseys:

Now, why are we talking about this here? Because reader @kranman85 on Twitter asks, “Is it a Jersey Foul to get a Chico Resch reverse retro jersey now?”

Jersey Foul rules indicate that the player on the back has to have worn the jersey in their career, unless their number is retired. Chico’s number is not retired. So it’s a question of whether this counts as him “wearing” the Reverse Retro jersey. Since it’s a team-issued bobblehead, we’ll say it is. Not a Foul!


Video of the week

My editor Tim Kavanagh and I marveled at the middle-of-the-cage precision of this goalie goal by Minnesota Wild prospect Jesper Wallstedt. At 20 years old, he’s the youngest goalie in AHL history to score one. (I wrote about the art of the goalie goal last year.)


Winners and losers of the week

Winner: Devils fans

Not only do they get to watch their team go on a 10-game heater (tm, Jack Hughes), but Devils fans had the humility to chant “Sorry, Lindy!” in honor of coach Lindy Ruff after chanting “Fire Lindy!” to start the season. The classiest thing to happen in New Jersey since … um … we’re going to need some extra time on this one, actually.

Loser: Fans of ‘best on best’

The World Cup of Hockey gets delayed to 2025 for logistical and Russian invasion reasons. We haven’t seen a best-on-best tournament without made-up teams since the 2014 Sochi Olympics. That means more than a decade will have passed between those tournaments. I remain convinced this is a plot to keep the Americans sidelined, now that we have actual star centers as well as better goaltending than Canada.

Winner: Torts’ candor

John Tortorella was asked by ESPN’s Brian Boucher about his team’s effort. Any time the answer begins with “we sucked,” you know you’re in for some Classic Torts.

Loser: Torts’ horse

As our own Bob Wischusen noted during the Philadelphia Flyers‘ game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Tortorella was sporting a cut on his face after “a horse kicking incident” involving one of the horses on his farm. Our only follow-up: Does Torts bench the horse or celebrate it for its “jam?”

Winner: These jerseys

Gary Carter! Tim Raines! Andrew Dawson! Andrés Galarraga! These Reverse Retros are gorgeous and hit us right in our Expos nostalgia spot.

Loser: This mascot

About as metal as Hot Topic.

Winner: Hank Green

The author, vlogger, science aficionado and causal Los Angeles Kings fan made Hockey Twitter waves this week after he dropped a profane note about his, ahem, negative feelings regarding Florida Panthers forward Matthew Tkachuk. Then when the NHL reached out to him, he thanked them and asked to have offside reviews end. What a king.

Loser: Thatcher Demko

The list of “things we assumed would be good about the Canucks which turned out to be terrible” is slightly longer than the one Santa carries around at Christmas. Demko’s season certainly ranks highly on it: minus-10.3 goals save above expected and minus-1.6 wins above replacement, both second worst in the NHL.

Now he’s watching backup Spencer Martin get a run of starts where he gets significantly more scoring support (4.83 goals per game) than he has (2.64). From preseason Vezina Trophy contender to one quality start in 11 games. Yikes.


Puck headlines

Watch The Drop

Arda Ocal and I host The Drop every Thursday on the NHL on ESPN YouTube channel. Last week, we chatted with Buffalo Sabres coach Don “Donny Meatballs” Granato and had a great roundtable with Meghan Chayka (Stathletes and ESPN contributor) and Alison Lukan (Seattle Kraken contributor and Too Many Men podcast)!





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