There was never any doubt about Martin Brodeur’s Hall of Fame candidacy. From the moment he hung up his skates, he was written into the Hall’s 2018 class in permanent ink. There was nothing that was going to stop the netminder, who some consider the best to ever strap on the pads, from entering as a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
That he was joined by Martin St-Louis as a first ballot entrant wasn't all that surprising, either. St-Louis’ career was brilliant in its own way. He was at times the most prolific scorer in the NHL, twice winning the Art Ross Trophy and then capturing a league MVP crown to go along with a five all-star nods. Add in a Stanley Cup victory to go along with three Lady Byng Trophies and he had the credentials for induction, even if some believed it might take a year or two for St-Louis' call to come.
Chances are, though, that the next class won't have any first-ballot entrants from the NHL ranks. While there are several players who will be eligible for the first time, the best candidates for the class of 2019 are those who've been passed over in years prior. With that in mind, here are 10 former NHL players who could get the call for induction next November:
It’s only a matter of time for Alfredsson, and with a thin class of first-ballot entries coming up, the door to the hallowed Hall appears to be wide open for ‘Alfie.’ One quick look at his numbers gives reason enough for Alfredsson to earn series consideration. He has 444 goals and 1,157 points in 1,246 games, not to mention another 51 goals and 100 points in 124 post-season games. His era-adjusted numbers are worth noting, too, as he would likely be a top-35 scorer in NHL history had he played the bulk of his career in a more goal-friendly age. He has the personal hardware in the form of the 1995-96 Calder Trophy. He was consistently one of the best two-way players in the league. And he was a well-respected leader and a top-flight player until he hung up his skates following the 2013-14 campaign. Some will argue that he was never a true superstar and the one top-five Hart Trophy finish doesn’t help his case, but Alfredsson's 2019 induction is as good a bet as any.
That Joseph isn’t in the Hall of Fame yet, and that he may again end up on the outside looking in, is thanks in large part to circumstance. Consider that across the duration of his impeccable career, one that sees him sitting fifth all-time in wins by a goaltender and spans the sixth-most games of any masked man in NHL history, Joseph had to compete with three netminders who each have cases as the best goaltenders the league has ever seen in Brodeur, Patrick Roy and Dominik Hasek. Even Ed Belfour’s presence at times resulted in Joseph being overshadowed. But thanks to his aforementioned numbers and the fact that ‘CuJo’ finished top-five in Vezina Trophy voting five times and was once a top-five finisher for the Hart, he has to be on the short list of those in consideration. It’s going to happen sometime, and the 2019 class might be the right moment.
Only 16 defensemen in NHL history found the scoresheet more often than Gonchar, who wrapped up his career with 220 goals and 811 points. That alone should get Gonchar’s name tossed around when the selection committee bats about candidates for the 2019 class. What will hold him back, however, is the same thing that hinders most of those on this list: a lack of personal hardware. Yes, Gonchar has a Stanley Cup to his name, skating big minutes with the 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins championship outfit, but he doesn’t have a single Norris, let alone top-three finish, to his name. That said, across an eight-year span from 1999-00 through to 2007-08, Gonchar was a steady contender for the award. Only once during those seasons did he finish outside the top 10 in voting, finishing in the top five on four occasions. He was one of the best of his generation.
Maybe not the first name that comes to mind when considering Hall of Fame entrants, and he won’t be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but Boyle is a definite sleeper candidate for the honor. Helping guide the Tampa Bay Lightning to the 2004 Stanley Cup certainly helps Boyle’s case, but what’s most worth noting is how effective he was at both ends of the ice. He remained a top-four blueliner well into his late-30s and had three top-10 finishes in Norris voting across a four-year span during his prime. Boyle also stuffed the scoresheet in a manner unlike many other blueliners who played during the same era. He ranks 36th all-time in scoring by a defenseman with 605 points, and he keeps impressive company when compared to his contemporaries. From his first full season in 2000-01 to his last in 2015-16, only Nicklas Lidstrom and Gonchar out-scored Boyle.
The precipitous decline and disappointing end to Lecavalier’s career tends to cloud his candidacy, but what shouldn’t be overlooked is just how dominant Lecavalier was during the prime of his career. He really hit his stride during the 2002-03 campaign in Tampa Bay with a 33-goal, 78-point campaign, and during a 10-season stretch that spanned through to the end of the lockout-shortened season, Lecavalier was spectacular. During that time, only seven players scored more goals than Lecavalier’s 302, only a dozen compiled more points than his 691 and his points per game rate among 500-game players was 12th in the NHL. Add to it a Stanley Cup in 2004 and a goal-scoring crown during the 2006-07 season and Lecavalier has a tidy little case for enshrinement.
Elias was criminally underrated outside New Jersey and he really should get more credit for how excellent he was during the Devils’ heyday. For instance, consider that Elias scored 373 goals and 941 points from 1998-99 through to 2013-14. In a similar number of games played over the same span, Elias scored more goals than Martin St-Louis and put up more points than Teemu Selanne, two marks that are all the more impressive given the endless gripes about New Jersey’s defensive style during the late-90s and early-2000s. Elias was one of the offensive catalysts behind the Devils’ two Stanley Cups, too. He has no other hardware, but maybe that can be overlooked.
During the first several seasons of his career, Roenick burned as bright as any player in the NHL. His sophomore season saw him net 40 goals and 94 points, followed by consecutive 50-goal, 100-point seasons and a third straight 100-point season in 1993-94. Roenick earned Hart consideration, Selke votes and found his way into the conversation for end of season all-star squads. But Roenick’s trophy case remains bare. He has no Stanley Cups, no awards and no all-star nods on his resume. He does, however, possess the 43rd-highest point total in league history. When he called it a career following the 2008-09 season, Roenick had 513 goals and 1,216 points to his name. Why is that important? Well, Roenick is one of only two players with 500-plus goals and 1,200-plus points not in the Hall.
…which brings us to the other. Turgeon joins Roenick in the exclusive 500/1,200 club, and it could be argued that Turgeon’s numbers are actually the more impressive of the two. In fact, Turgeon may not have burned as bright, but he has the superior points per game total to go along with two more goals — admittedly, that’s a marginal difference, though Turgeon accomplish his 515 goals in 69 fewer games — and 111 more points. Turgeon’s highest Hart voting finish was fifth, which matches Roenick’s, and Turegon also won a Lady Byng Trophy while consistently earning his spot in the top 10 in voting. No eligible Hall of Famer has a higher point total than Turgeon, either.
There are a few arguments for Mogilny’s induction, one of which is purely statistical. He was a brilliant point producer who racked up 473 goals and 1,032 points over the course of his career, and his totals are made all the more impressive by virtue of the fact he finished 10 games shy of the 1,000-game plateau. On a per-game basis, that makes him one of the more dominant scorers in league history. Only 25 players were able to maintain a scoring rate similar to Mogilny’s with a career that spanned as many games. The other arguments are less tangible, but his career was impactful in other ways. Most notably, Mogilny was the first Soviet player to make the leap to the NHL and he was the first European player to become an NHL captain. That probably doesn’t make up for the lack of individual hardware, but it should certainly count for something.
Let’s first rundown Wilson’s numbers, shall we? Among defensemen, his 237 goals are 12th most in NHL history. He’s 18th all-time with 590 assists. And his 827 points put him 15th among all blueliners. At .81 points per game, Wilson ranks ninth among Hall of Fame eligible blueliners to have played at least 500 games, and eight of nine are in, with Paul Reinhart as the odd man out. What else makes Wilson a top candidate? How about a Norris? He won the award in 1981-82, beating out Hall of Famers Ray Bourque and Paul Coffey, and Wilson even earned a handful of Hart votes that season. Across his career, which spanned 1,024 games, Wilson also made three end of year all-star squads. The only thing missing from his trophy case, really, is a Stanley Cup. Wilson has spent 20-plus years getting passed over, but now might be the time.