Which NHLers will ultimately hear the Hall’s call?

Editor’s note: Cold As Ice contributor Phil Stacey takes a hard look at which current NHL players should make the Hockey Hall of Fame someday, and which ones won’t quite make the final cut.

In the NHL right now, there are seven no-doubt-about-it Hall of Famers: Sidney Crosby, Jaromir Jagr, Jarome Iginla, Joe Thornton, Zdeno Chara, Alex Ovechkin and Henrik Lundqvist. Their credentials are impeccable and can’t be questioned.

But what about all of other terrific talents in the league? How do we separate the wheat from the chaff and decide who ultimately gets a call from the Hall?

It’s a precarious proposition trying to sift through a number of variables. How do you properly measure star players still in the embryonic stages of their careers? Can we count on guys in their playing peak right now to stay at a similar level of excellence? How much of a factor should longevity play into making potential Hall selections?

So the best way to do it is probably break it down by age. Let’s break it down into four sections—35 and Over, plus players ages 30-to-34, 25-to-29 and 24-and-under—and see who deserves to have a weekend where they’re honored on Yonge Street in Toronto.

SHOULD GET IN: 35 AND OVER

Daniel Sedin: Just became the newest member of the league’s 1,000 Point Club and can still dish the biscuit with the very best. Hart Trophy and Art Ross winner as well as Vancouver’s all-time leading scorer.

Henrik Sedin: The lethal scorer/beneficiary of his twin brother’s passing proclivities, he’ll soon be joining his sibling in the 1K Club and also has an Art Ross Trophy on his mantle at home.

Marian Hossa: Has reinvented himself several times with various organizations, but has always brought the goods when comes to getting on the scoresheet (500+ goals, 1,100+ points).

 

NOT GOING TO CUT IT: 35 AND OVER

Roberto Luongo: Quirky and self deprecating while fantastic between the pipes for the bulk of his career. But he never brought home a Cup, so … sorry, Bobby Lou.

Patrick Marleau: He’s been nothing if not consistently … solid. That works well over a span of almost 20 years, but the Hall? Not in this instance.

Shane Doan: Tip o’ the bucket for his legacy in Winnipeg/Arizona, but simply not worthy of being in this conversation.

Henrik Zetterberg: Has never been the best forward on his own team.

Ryan Miller: Having 340+ career wins is nice, but not enough to earn him a spot.

 

SHOULD GET IN: 30-TO-34 YEARS OLD

Duncan Keith: Still a minute munching machine at age 33; those three Cups in Chicago only help his argument.

Patrice Bergeron: Beloved in Boston but also universally recognized for skill, savvy and ability to come through in the clutch.

Brent Burns: Third in the league in scoring at the All-Star break, what he’s doing on the back line as a converted forward has been nothing short of remarkable.

Evgeni Malkin: Repeated time on the sidelines could hurt his candidacy, but there’s no denying his ability or what he’s done with a Hart Trophy, a Conn Smythe and two Cups to his name.

 

SKILLED, BUT ULTIMATELY NOT HALL-WORTHY: 30-TO-34 YEARS OLD

Jonathan Quick: Toughest choice for me was to leave him off. Two otherworldly Cup winning performances, but will injuries ultimately take their toll on the 31-year-old?

Ryan Getzlaf: He makes the Hall of Really, Really Good Players, not the Hall of Fame.

Corey Perry: Like his Anaheim running mate, see above.

Ryan Suter: Great stamina and leadership both in NHL and international hockey, but a tick or two below what it means to reside in the Hall.

Shea Weber: Besides Al MacInnis, what other HOF defender is best known for his booming shot? That alone won’t cut it for Weber.

Joe Pavelski: Captain America moniker fits him perfectly, but resume is lacking for Hall induction.

Rick Nash: Never quite pushed through to the ultra greatness threshold that he should have reached by now.

Thomas Vanek: Could look like the league’s best 1-on-1 player in certain games, but also has disappeared for stretches of his career.

 

LOOKING GOOD TO GET IN: 25-TO-29 YEARS OLD

Patrick Kane: May very well retire as the greatest American-born player of all time.

Jonathan Toews: Outstanding three-zone player and immense leader who captained three Cup winners in six seasons.

Erik Karlsson: Generational talent buried on a bad Ottawa team, but anyone who follows the league knows he’s the best all-around defenseman and offensive pioneer.

 

UPWARD TRAJECTORY GIVES THEM A CHANCE: 25-TO-29 YEARS OLD

Steven Stamkos: Only injury can prevent him from continuing his run of scoring greatness.

Carey Price: He’s not Ken Dryden (who is?), but he’s Montreal’s most important player the best thing between the pipes there since Patrick Roy.

Jamie Benn: Talented playmaker and scorer, effective leader and grittier than you’d expect.

Anze Kopitar: In the Bergeron/Toews mold in that his stats might not jump off the page, but his valuable exceeds mere numbers.

Victor Hedman: Has matured into a beast of a blueliner with size, strength and skill.

John Tavares: Great player in a terrible organization needs a chance to flourish elsewhere while he’s still young.

Vladimir Tarasenko: Might be a reach, but early indications are promising for this rocket-shot scoring star in the Midwest.

 

SKILLED, BUT PROBABLY NOT HALL-WORTHY: 25-TO-29 YEARS OLD

Phil Kessel: Too streaky, and his days as an elite scorer are nearing the end.

P.K. Subban: Fun, flashy and owner of a cannon shot—but will he ever fulfill his true potential?

Claude Giroux: Better version of a former Flyers captain (Mike Richards) with resolve for days on end, but often a healthy scratch for Team Canada in big games.

Nicklas Backstrom: Skilled passer has obviously benefited from playing with Ovechkin, but are his accomplishments on their own Hall-worthy? No.

 

EARLY FAVORITES FROM THE 24-AND-UNDER CROWD

Connor McDavid: Runs neck-and-neck with Ovechkin for title of NHL’s Most Exciting Player. Talent up the wazoo.

Tyler Seguin: More than living up to the expectations of a No. 2 overall pick; talented marksman will continue to get better.

Jack Eichel: Sky is the limit for this 20-year-old wunderkind; if he can ever bring a Cup to Buffalo, he’ll be a shoo-in.

Johnny Gaudreau: A human shot of adrenaline who can fly and fire the puck in a blur of amazement.

Auston Matthews: How many other Hall of Famers began their NHL careers with a 4-goal game? He’s just scratching at the surface of his immense potential.

 

Halfway there: A look at the NHL’s first half

The NHL has a few days to go until the four-day All-Star break. With the league a little more than halfway through the regular season, it’s a good time to check in with a roundup of some of the biggest stories in the game so far.

Midyear leaders: In the East, Washington, Columbus (!), Pittsburgh and Montreal are solidly in playoff position, with the Rangers fairly locked into the first Wild Card spot. But the rest of the East is in the hunt for the postseason right now. Ottawa and Toronto are currently sitting in the second and third Atlantic Division spots, but Boston, Florida, Detroit, Buffalo and Tampa Bay are all within six points of the Leafs. The Flyers are sitting in the second Wild Card, but again, only five points separate them from last place in the conference. The West, as usual, has a lot of powerful teams, but they’re not the ones you expect: Sure, Chicago and San Jose are in the mix, but Minnesota, Anaheim and Edmonton are all having strong seasons so far. Nashville, St. Louis and Calgary are all in playoff spots at this writing, but Vancouver, Los Angeles, Winnipeg and Dallas are all in contention. Arizona and Colorado, however, are way out of the picture.

Scoring: Connor McDavid is living up to the hype that made him the consensus #1 pick in 2015. After an injury-shortened rookie year, McDavid currently leads the league in scoring, albeit narrowly over the Penguins’ dynamic duo of Sid Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. San Jose’s Brent Burns is having a huge year by scoring at a point-a-game pace as a defenseman, which is unheard of these days. In the goals race, Crosby leads with 28, followed by Jeff Carter with 24, Cam Atkinson with 23 and Malkin, Alex Ovechkin and Leafs super-rookie Auston Matthews with 22.  McDavid leads the league with 40 assists, followed by Nicklas Backstrom with 34 and Patrick Kane with 33. For the netminders, Devan Dubnyk of the Wild leads in GAA with 1.91 and save percentage with .935, while Sergei Bobrovsky of Columbus has 28 wins and Braden Holtby of the Caps has the most shutouts with 6.

Freaky streaky: There has been some serious streaking going on so far this year. Philadelphia reeled off 10 straight into mid-December. After a tough start to the season, the Blue Jackets caught fire and won 16 straight between Nov. 29 and Jan. 3, riding the hot goaltending of Bobrovsky and receiving timely offense from Atkinson, Alexander Wennberg, Nick Foligno, Brandon Saad and Sam Gagner. Along the way, the Jackets ended Minnesota’s 12-game streak. In the end, the Jackets fell a game short of the record of 17 set by Pittsburgh in 1992-93; they lost to Washington, which has been the hottest team in the league since.

Bye bye week: The New Year brought a new concept to the NHL: the bye week. Because of the compressed schedule this season due to the World Cup of Hockey last fall, every team will take a league-mandated five-day break: no games, no practices, no nothing. The bye weeks were negotiated by the NHL Players Association to give players a break before the playoff stretch run. How the week will affect teams in the hunt remains to be seen, although it hasn’t seemed to hurt the teams that have already taken the mini-vacation (Pittsburgh, Rangers, Islanders, Toronto, Ottawa, Philly, Arizona, Colorado…okay, the last two are continuing their awful play).

Golden child: Well, it became official in November: The newest NHL franchise will be called the Vegas Golden Knights. The team starts play next fall, but the NHL.com shop already has an assortment of Golden Knights merch for sale (although no jerseys yet). Not exactly sure what a golden knight is, but the logo’s decent. The other 30 teams are already casting an eye towards the expansion draft in June in terms of which players they’ll protect and who they’ll expose to possibly become members of the inaugural major pro team in Las Vegas.