There is one mortal lock for the Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2019, and her name is Hayley Wickenheiser.
There was talk that the greatest women’s hockey player in Canadian history might skip the line and get the “Gretzky pass” into the 2018 Hall of Fame induction. Instead, she’s eligible next summer and will waltz into immortality as a four-time Olympic gold medalist and a seven-time world champion.
Behind her, what other players might make the cut? Here’s a look at the top 10 options for the Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2019, including some interesting first-year names on the ballot:
10. Doug Wilson (23rd year)
I’ll keep banging on this drum until my arms are tired, but Wilson should be in the Hall. He won the Norris once and was a top-four finisher three other times. His offensive numbers are among the best all time. His 0.81 points-per-game average ranks eighth among defensemen with at least 657 games played, aka the Bobby Orr cutoff. Wilson holds a sterling personal résumé that perhaps has been dragged down by the fact that he never played for the Stanley Cup. The problem is there are other defensemen in consideration, and that list continues to grow.
9. Brad Richards (first year)
Richards had 932 points in 1,126 games from 2000 to 2016. He played the majority of that time with Vincent Lecavalier on the Tampa Bay Lightningbefore being traded to the Dallas Stars and then signing a huge free-agent contract with the New York Rangers. He won the Stanley Cup in 2004 with the Lightning and again with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2015, with 14 points in 23 postseason games. He captured the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP in 2004 (26 points in 23 games), as well as the Lady Byng, but that was that for awards. He had four points in six games to help Canada to gold in the 2004 World Cup of Hockey, and he won world junior bronze in 2000. Like Lecavalier, he just might not have the stats case: Most forwards who are in the Hall of Fame with fewer than 1,000 career points are there because they didn’t have longevity.
8. Patrik Elias (first year)
His last game was on April 9, 2016, though he was on the New Jersey Devilsroster for the 2016-17 season, officially retiring in March 2017. It will have been more than three years since his last game, so he should be eligible for the Hall. The career Devils winger had 1,025 points in 1,240 games from 1995-2016, playing a key role on two Stanley Cup championship teams. That puts him 13th in points in the NHL during that span and 14th in points per game. He was a finalist for the Calder Trophy but was never again up for a major award. On the one hand, Mark Recchi overcame this. On the other, Jeremy Roenick still hasn’t. Internationally, Elias had 33 points in 40 games and won Olympic bronze in 2006, though he played only one game in the tournament. He could be condemned to the “Hall of Great But Not Immortal.”
7. Vincent Lecavalier (first year)
Of the first-year players, this is the one with perhaps the most “fame” on his Hall of Fame résumé. Lecavalier played 1,212 games, primarily with the Lightning (1998-2013) before finishing up with the Philadelphia Flyers and Los Angeles Kings. He had 949 points including 421 goals, putting him 16th in goals-per-game average in a career that included some trap years. He won the Richard Trophy in 2006-07 with 52 goals and won the Stanley Cup in 2004 with the Lightning. He also won the King Clancy in 2008, as part of a legacy of off-ice charity work. Lecavalier had seven points in six games to help Canada win World Cup of Hockey gold in 2004. He was a star and a consistent player, but do other forwards in the queue have stronger cases?
6. Jeremy Roenick (seventh year)
Roenick’s case is one of fame, as he never won an individual award or a Stanley Cup, but he had 513 goals and 1,216 points. He was one of the singular talents of his generation, but that generation included several centers who are already in the Hall. The key for Roenick is going to be how many advocates he has in the room among the selection committee. One thing’s for sure: He would be a draw for induction weekend.
5. Alexander Mogilny (10th year)
A dominant offensive player in his prime, Mogilny posted goal-scoring seasons of 76 (!) and 55. He played for the Buffalo Sabres, Vancouver Canucks, Devils (with whom he won the Stanley Cup) and Toronto Maple Leafs, playing 990 games with 1,032 points from 1989 to 2006. Mogilny’s case was bolstered by the recent inductions of Eric Lindros and Pavel Bure, whose total games were far fewer than Mogilny’s. His more-than-a-point-per-game rate and being the first Russian defection to the NHL make for a compelling case, but please note that the Hall of Fame has never had two Russian players in the same class.
4. Dan Boyle (first year)
The puck-moving defenseman is known as much for his backstory — an undrafted NCAA free agent signed by the Florida Panthers and then traded for a fifth-round pick to Tampa after three seasons — as his play on the ice. But what a career: 605 points in 1,093 games, skating with the Panthers, Lightning, San Jose Sharks and Rangers. The only defensemen to notch more points than Boyle from 1998 to 2018? Nicklas Lidstrom, Sergei Gonchar and Zdeno Chara. Boyle won a Stanley Cup with the Lightning in 2004, helped Canada win Olympic gold in 2010 and won world championship silver in 2005. He was never a Norris finalist, but he has a compelling case. The problem is the selection committee has other options on defense.
3. Sergei Gonchar (second year)
He was in the top five for the Norris Trophy four times, though he didn’t win one. He won the Stanley Cup once with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Gonchar played 1,301 games and amassed 811 points (17th among defensemen) with the Washington Capitals, Boston Bruins, Penguins, Ottawa Senators and Stars. He won Olympic and world championship silver and bronze, with 22 points in 52 international games. He has the numbers but lacks the individual hardware. He also might be in line behind another Russian defenseman.
2. Sergei Zubov (sixth year)
Zubov’s points-per-game average is 0.72, a fraction behind Lidstrom’s (0.73) and ahead of Gonchar’s (0.62). He had 771 points in 1,068 games. Zubov won Stanley Cups with the Rangers and Stars and an Olympic gold medal with Russia in 1992. Here’s the question: Can he overcome a lack of individual recognition (a Norris finalist once, top five just twice) with a revisionist reconsideration of his career led by the analytics community? The wind has been gusting in his direction for two years now.
1. Daniel Alfredsson (second year)
The Senators (and briefly Detroit Red Wings) winger has 444 goals (No. 62 all time) and 1,157 points (No. 51 all time). He won the Calder Trophy as top rookie, but the highest he ever finished for the Hart Trophy was fifth in 2005-06, his only 100-point season. Which is to say that consistency was the key during Alfredsson’s 1,246 career games. He also owns Olympic gold and silver, with 27 points in 26 Winter Games appearances for Sweden, though he never won a Stanley Cup. It’s a little surprising that he didn’t make the cut in 2018, but perhaps it was with an eye toward making him a marquee name in 2019, which is a year without a sure-thing NHL player for the Hall. The same goes for 2020, by the way — and then come the Sedins in 2021.