Time to review my 2007 predictions and pick the next class

ByJohn Buccigross ESPN logo
Monday, November 16, 2015

Back in 2007, I wrote a team-by-team column assessing which players then on the rosters of each team would/could make the Hockey Hall of Fame.

What I find during Hall of Fame discussions is that most people over the age of 25 undervalue current players in a historical context. This is not a surprise. People do it with music, movies and cars. Is what we see a fad? How can we tell if it is truly great and timeless?

Hall of Famers are hockey Gods, right? We see players all the time now with every game on the Center Ice package and every goal on NHL.com. We see all the warts. I've never seen a compilation of Bobby Orr bloopers or a Gordie Howe Not Top 10. That is a crutch for discounting the current player.

Many believe most things were better in their past. Certainly, most older people do because they choose what to remember, negotiating the positive from the negative, and their past lives are so drastically different than today.

People my age have seen our lives split almost evenly between pre- and post-Internet segments, which was probably the biggest seismic shift for humanity since the Industrial Revolution. Radio, air conditioning, indoor plumbing, moving pictures, records, TV, the Zamboni, Pong, cable TV and the success of vending machines accepting less-than-crisp dollar bills all changed life in a big way.

I had most of those things, but I did live in the simpler, more human, pre-Internet age. Plus, my parents were born during the Great Depression. I heard stories and witnessed behaviors based on their poor- to lower-middle-class upbringing: conservative in financial decisions, value things, stay very close to siblings through adulthood and make things last.

Thus, people of my age are hybrids. We flow with the exponential growth of technology at an acceptable success rate yet still view the past through a respectful and nostalgic lens. I like having 15,000 songs collected on CDs transferred to a single iPod.

So, you have people who say there's no way Alex Ovechkinis better than Mike Bossy and people who have no idea who Mike Bossy is. The best we can hope for is that the younger folk will spend more time reading -- or even YouTubing -- about the past, and for some older folk to understand the difficulty in scoring today and the amazing evolution of hockey skills.

Let's go back to '07 to see how my predictions held up and then add players who have joined the league or have had a major impact since. Included for each team is the player or players I picked in 2007 and a comment with each, followed by my take from today.

So, who is a Hall of Famer on the ...

Anaheim Ducks


Chris Pronger: Bonus points for the good hockey name and David Letterman smile.

Scott Niedermayer: He's an athlete touched by God.

Teemu Selanne: Beautiful talent. In the height of playoff or Olympic passion, he would bite the head off a rabid squirrel to win. He's never gotten his due for that because he is from Finland.

Well, those were all 1-foot putts. Not difficult.


Corey Perry: On the path. Four top-10 goal seasons, same as Cam Neely. A Stanley Cup, gold medal and an MVP. He just turned 30 and has an outside shot at 500 career goals. In this era, that is a great feat.

Ryan Getzlaf: Getzlaf and Perry were born five days apart in 1985. I'm a huge fan of Getzlaf. Big, disruptive, great hands. Top eight in assists in five seasons. He's nearly a point-per-game player in the regular season and the playoffs. The Ducks have missed the playoffs just twice with Getzlaf and Perry. I think Getzlaf and Perry will both get in.

Atlanta Thrashers


Ilya Kovalchuk: If he were playing in a hockey market, the electricity of the arena would singe the hair off Tie Domi's back.

Marian Hossa:He'll retire with more than 500 career goals. Couple that with his good two-way play, and you have a Hall of Famer.

Well, the Thrashers are now in Winnipeg and are called the Jets, but I do believe both of these players will end up in the Hall of Fame. Hossa is a lock. He's just a great all-around player. Kovalchuk was on his way to 500 NHL goals. He's an electric, exciting player who was interesting to watch as he tried to corral his bubbling thirst to score. I can't see how he doesn't return to the NHL at some point. If he does and has five more good years, he has an excellent shot at induction.

Boston Bruins

Then: None.


Zdeno Chara: Just arriving in Boston when I wrote the original column, Chara was turning 30 and didn't have the aura he has today. The only negative I've heard about Chara -- and it came from two different sources in the know -- is that he doesn't tip well. He had a seven-year run as a top-10 vote getter for the Norris Trophy, and was there 10 times in all. He scores power-play goals from the blue line and the blue paint of the crease. He's an interesting player who captained the Bruins to a Stanley Cup. He scores goals, contributes on the power play, kills penalties, fights and helped bring about a Bruins renaissance. I think he is a Hall of Famer. Now, start passing out a few more Ben Franklins and all will be good.

Patrice Bergeron: He probably will finish his career in Boston and get his number retired, but unless he really explodes offensively in his 30s, I think he will fall short. He's a stellar all-around player who has every character trait you want in a captain.

Buffalo Sabres

Then: None.


Jack Eichel: All the attributes are there: size, strength, vision, shot, commitment. There are no guarantees, of course, but Eichel also appears to be a player who will be healthy and play for a long time. If that's the case, he has an excellent chance to be a 1,000-game/1,000-point player along the lines of Getzlaf. Since the first time I saw Eichel play, that is who I compared him to. Eichel appears to be a little better skater and a more prolific goal scorer (mainly because he will shoot more). The truly special make others better. That's why I think Eichel has a high likelihood to play 15-20 years and have a Hall of Fame rsum.

Calgary Flames


Jarome Iginla: His name alone says hockey.

Dion Phaneuf: If I could legally adopt an NHL player just so I could point to him from the stands and say, "He's my son and thus you must respect my set of genes!" the Terminator would be in my top 10. Of course, I would have left out the adopt part to the beer guy.

Iginla was a gimme. People forget what a comet Phaneuf was when he entered the league as a 20-year-old. Big, strong, great skater, big shot. I wrote this column after two years from Phanuef. In each of his first three seasons (2005-06 to '07-08), he had at least 17 goals and 49 points, and at least 10 power-play goals.

Yes, the numbers out of the 2004 lockout were inflated, but it also appears the trade to Toronto might not have been the best thing for Phaneuf's career. Between the huge pressure and the less-than-talented Maple Leafs teams (one playoff appearance, no series wins), the move to Toronto was not beneficial.

Phaneuf is still only 30 and has time for a third act if he can play hockey on a better roster in a stable situation. The Hall of Fame is now unlikely, but he has plenty of time to have a satisfying career. He's had little chance for personal or team success since the trade to Toronto.


Carolina Hurricanes


Rod Brind'Amour: I'm inclined to give people who are close the nod. Can one be a Hall of Famer with one All-Star appearance? Yes, because All-Star Games are antithetical to the actual sport of hockey.

Eric Staal: He's got a body type that will never wear down, and that should get him in the 500-goal club.

Cam Ward: He's got a major award (Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP), and I see him churning out 30 wins for, like, 15 seasons. That's 450 wins right there.

Brind'Amour played a couple more years with Carolina. He is a top-50 guy in goals, assists and points. He won two Selke Trophies. Brind'Amour played 1,484 hard regular-season and 159 postseason games. It takes different bricks to build a Hall of Fame. I like having some players like Brind'Amour.

Staal's big hurdle is playing for an organization that can't build a winner. He does forever have a Stanley Cup to his name (and what massive playoffs he had in 2007). He was drafted second overall in 2003, the same year Getzlaf was 19th overall, and their careers are very close. My first instinct is to take Getzlaf by a little bit. To be fair, Getzlaf has played with better teammates and a better organization. There is time for Staal to have a second act, but he's trending in the wrong direction.

Ward's first four seasons were top shelf. A Cup, a Conn Smythe and those 30-win seasons I talked about. Injury, the 2012-13 lockout and those bad Hurricanes teams put a speed bump in his career. Goalies play a long time, so there is a chance Ward could find second life on a winning team, but a lack of a Vezina and low save percentage keeps him out.

Now: None.

Chicago Blackhawks


Jonathan Toews: Presence. Personality. Unpredictability. A three-zone star.

Patrick Kane: Like Anthony Hopkins' acting, Kane makes it look easy. That's greatness.

Toews and Kane are on their way, and it was apparent early. As I noted above, current Blackhawk Hossa (three Cups, 500 goals, two-way player) will get in.


Duncan Keith: Three Cups, two Norris trophies, two gold medals. Keith is going to the Hall of Fame.

Colorado Avalanche


Joe Sakic: One of the last megastars who retained all of his teenage character. Players entering the NHL today are rich when they play their first game. They can't really be humble and innocent. Enjoy him. There will be no more Joe Sakics anytime soon.

Paul Stastny: He's going to be one of those players who scores his 500th goal and people will say, "How in the hell did that happen?"

Sakic? Duh. And Peter Forsberg was not on the Avalanche when the original list was constructed, but he's always been a Hall of Famer.

Despite being a very good all-around player, Stastny is not getting 500 goals and not going to the Hall of Fame unless he plays until he's about 52. I've written often in this space that a player's first year can sometimes be his most prolific, and Stastny's 28 goals as a rookie are his career high.


Gabriel Landeskog: His career is off to a good start. He has been durable, consistent and evolved into a team leader. And he's off to a good start this season. Evolving into a 30-goal scorer is what he will need to accomplish to have Hall of Fame consideration 10 to 15 years from now.

Nathan MacKinnon: The first overall pick of the excellent 2013 draft has made a little move this season. His numbers are up near that point-per-game game pace where his talent says he belongs. This is a big-time player who just turned 20. I say he has a big career and has a very good chance to build a Hall-worthy rsum.

Columbus Blue Jackets


Sergei Fedorov: Columbus should still trade him, and someone should still trade for him. My gosh, he turns 38 next month. He hasn't played a playoff game since the Ducks swept the Wings in 2003.

Rick Nash: Hall of Fame name. It is his destiny.

Fedorov is part of this week's Hall class, and I do think the Red Wings should retire his number. Nash currently falls short of a Hall of Fame career. His 10 goals in 60 playoff games is not appealing. He is a huge talent who carried Columbus during his younger years. He has a huge amount of class and decency, and I hope he explodes in his 30s in a good situation and sniffs 500 career goals. Time to get going.


Ryan Johansen and Brandon Saad are two Blue Jackets to keep an eye. They are young players who have a couple years under their belts. Can they continue to improve and sustain a high level of success for 12 to 15 years?

Dallas Stars


Mike Modano: Have you seen him skate recently? He looks 19.

Sergei Zubov: I love artistic, insanely competent people. A rink rat with skill. That is glorious.

Love Modano, who got in last year. My opinion on Zubov hasn't changed. I think he is a Hall of Famer.


Tyler Seguin: He's on his way to a long career with massive numbers. He already has a Stanley Cup. If he stays healthy and committed and does what he is doing for 10 to 12 more years, he will be in.

Jamie Benn: He was a productive player before Seguin got to Dallas. Getting Seguin brought Benn to another level, and that goes both ways. Like Perry and Getzlaf, playing together for 10 to 12 years and winning a Cup while putting up nice numbers and earning hardware along the way is a ticket to the Hall.

Detroit Red Wings


Dominik Hasek: For the "Hey There, Delilah" crowd, he has won six Vezina Trophies and two Hart Trophies.

Nicklas Lidstrom: When I think of him, I think of the first two lines of one of the 10 songs I would take to heaven or hell (still up in the air at this point). The song is "Mary's Prayer" by Danny Wilson. And the lines are: "Everything is wonderful; being here is heavenly."

Henrik Zetterberg: A high-powered European sedan weaving through the pylons of life.

Chris Chelios: The Mike Wallace of the NHL.

Hasek got in last year and Lidstrom is going in this year. I still think Zetterberg is a Hall of Famer and Pavel Datsyuk will join him.


Dylan Larkin: Some players have a Christmas-tree glow about them. That doesn't ensure a Hall of Fame career, but the key to life is enthusiasm and energy. Add talent, and that's when you get the great ones. However, Hall of Fame careers are mostly marathons. With a few exceptions, you have to be healthy and good for a very long time.

Edmonton Oilers



Connor McDavid: The kid is the real deal. Some are Hall of Famers, health permitting, from their first stride on the ice. He's the genuine article.

Florida Panthers



Jaromir Jagr: Obvious. He's a unique marvel.

Aaron Ekblad: He doesn't turn 20 until February, yet he already has that aura of full-grown adult. Maybe he stares in the mirror and sings One Direction songs when he is alone in his hotel room, but I doubt it. I picture a Ford F-150, some flannel and a large stick just strolling down South Beach.

Los Angeles Kings


Anze Kopitar: Like Van Halen after their first album. You just knew.

Rob Blake: Seven All-Star Games, a Norris Trophy, big part of the Avalanche's 2001 Cup run (19 points in 23 games) and a gigantic butt used to crush sternums.

Kopitar was just in his second year when I wrote the 2007 column. I still think he will be a 1,000-game/1,000-point player. Blake got in last year.


Drew Doughty, Jeff Carterand Jonathan Quick are players to watch for the rest of their careers. All three have good regular-season numbers and excellent playoff numbers. I have advocated for a long time that playoff numbers should factor largely in Hall of Fame discussions. These are the most important games against the best teams. Carter's career aligns closely with Corey Perry's.

Minnesota Wild


Marian Gaborik: Hey, Marian! Multivitamins, acai berries, pushups, prayers, smash up some carrots and rub them all over your chest. Anything. Stay healthy! I'm going to take the long-shot guess that the 25-year-old forward can still put a 10-year stretch together to put up numbers one cannot deny.

Gaborik is now a King, of course. He's had a very good career, but he will fall short of the Hall.


Zach Parise: He has some work to do. His playoff numbers aren't great. He turns 32 next July, so he can't afford a drop-off. It's a coin flip. If he can stay productive for five more years, he has a shot.

Montreal Canadiens



Carey Price:Destined for the Hall of Fame if his health holds up. He has arrived as the game's best goalie. He has an MVP and Vezina, and the Canadiens appear to be in a position to compete for a Stanley Cup.

P.K. Subban: His career is off to a great start. He already has a Norris Trophy at 26 and is one of the game's best clappers, one of the game's most exciting players who oozes personality and energy. The NHL should market and put him front and center as much as possible.

Max Pacioretty: I love late bloomers. Pacioretty has had a slow climb. He had six goals in his first 86 games, 20 goals in his first 123. Then, at age 23, he arrived. He's a big, great skater, has a great release. He could be good for a long time. He turns 27 later this month and is a top-five goal scorer at the moment. Eight more seasons averaging 30 goals still just gets him around 400 career goals. But, if stays a top-five scorer for a total of 10 years, that's Hall of Fame territory. Luc Robitaille had just two top-five goal-scoring seasons. Pacioretty has three in a row. He's a superstar.

Nashville Predators



Pekka Rinne: He is building a monster career. He still has work to do and needs to make a postseason statement, but keep an eye on him. He already should have won a Vezina.

Shea Weber: He has seven straight top 10s in the Norris voting, but no trophy yet. Larry Murphy had five total, though, and is in the Hall of Fame.No big impact playoff numbers yet.

New Jersey Devils


Martin Brodeur: I never envisioned Marty as the elder statesman-type. He was always so playful.


Patrik Elias:I've always been a big Elias fan and have written in this space for a long time that I think he is a Hall of Famer.

New York Islanders


Rick DiPietro: He will retire with at least 400 wins, a Cup and a Conn Smythe Trophy.

Maybe I should turn my ESPN badge in at the door at the end of the day. When I wrote that, DiPietro had a couple of top-six goals-against averages and top-six save percentages, and he saw a lot of shots. Today, DiPietro hosts a radio show in New York (which he's good at). It all began to unravel after this column appeared. Hip surgeries. Knee problems. The 15-year contract didn't work out. But he's getting $1.5 million per year until 2029 as part of his buyout.


John Tavares: He was my pick for MVP last season. He is a self-improver who takes his job seriously. His skating appears to have improved, and he is a franchise pillar. If he can get some help, he has a championship and the Hall of Fame in his future.

New York Rangers


Jaromir Jagr: If he plays until he's 40, he should be No. 2 all-time in points behind Wayne Gretzky.

Henrik Lundqvist: Gold medal? Check. Stanley Cup? Coming soon. Hall of Fame? You betcha.

Brendan Shanahan:Future Maple Leafs president and GM. Book it.

Chris Drury: It's my column and my rules. I make them up. He is clutch, and in life, clutch is everything. Move on.

Wow, look at that Shanahan call from 2007. Not bad. If Jagr didn't go to the KHL, he would be second behind Gretzky. If he can play most of this season and next, he should get there. Lundqvist doesn't have his Cup yet, but he has too much desire not to make the Hall of Fame. Plus, he's handsome, and handsome people get the benefit of the doubt. It's science.

My boy Chris Drury won't make the Hockey Hall of Fame, but, man, what a life. So much winning. He's even winning in the pizza department with a couple of very successful pizza shops. Of course.


Ottawa Senators


Dany Heatley: He will retire with sick all-time numbers because he is one of those people who has unconditional love for the game.

Daniel Alfredsson: This is a close one. He got a late start. He was 24 when he completed his rookie season. Playing with Jason Spezza and Heatley should puff up his point totals to go along with all of his stellar hockey values and recent massive playoff performances.

Coming off back-to-back 50-goal, 100-point seasons, Heatley was on his way to a Hall of Fame career. But once he hit 30, the league just kept getting faster and his career faded hard and quickly. A great reminder that while many of these projections should hold, there will be cases where a drop and detour comes out of nowhere. Alfredsson would go on to play until he was 41 and put up a Hall of Fame career.


Erik Karlsson: He's an absolute wonder despite the fact that at times he is, frankly, embarrassing in his own end. But no one fuel-injects an offense like the 25-year-old Swede. He has two Norris Trophies. Every player with multiple Norrises (13, not counting Karlsson and Keith) is in the Hall of Fame.

Philadelphia Flyers



Claude Giroux: He's not a point-per-game guy in the regular season, but he is in the postseason, and that's one reason I love Giroux. He's also been a top-10 assist guy for five straight seasons. He's carried an average team (no playoff series wins in four years) for a while, with maximum effort. He sees the best defenders because of the Flyers' lack of depth the last couple of seasons. I'm a big fan. His numbers don't say Hall of Fame, and you worry he might slow down when he hits 30 thanks to all the games he's played and how hard he's played.

Phoenix/Arizona Coyotes


Now: None.

Pittsburgh Penguins


Sidney Crosby: I think he will play until he is 45 and score 900 goals.

Evgeni Malkin: The Penguins should sign him to his seven-year extension right now.

Mark Recchi: If I have Brind'Amour in by a hair, then it would be hypocritical to say no to Recchi.

Sid would have to play 17 more seasons and average 35 goals per year, and that isn't happening. He's going to the Hall, though, and Malkin will join him. Recchi eventually deserves to get in. His 1,652 regular-season games are fourth-most all-time, and he has 1,553 points in the regular season. He won three Cups with three different teams, and he is a player who could play in all situations.


Marc-Andre Fleury: He will probably have 358 wins after this season, when he'll be 31. That puts him 142 away from 500. He just has to play five more seasons and average 28 wins to reach 500. Only Brodeur and Patrick Roy are in the 500-plus club. How does Fleury not get into the Hall of Fame?

St. Louis Blues


Paul Kariya: He's stylish, classy and has skill to live and love for. If there was another league bigger and better than the NHL, he could play in that one, too. That should probably be the true definition of a Hall of Famer. But the cat is out of the bag now, babe.

Keith Tkachuk: He's in that Brind'Amour and Recchi class. He lost at least 50 goals with the two lockouts. Never durable and not a productive playoff player as of late.

Erik Johnson: I believe Johnson will grade out better than Blake when all is said and done, and resurfaced and said and done again.

I'm good with Kariya and Tkachuk as eventual Hall of Famers. Johnson is going to have a long career. He's almost halfway to 1,000 games at age 27, but he's obviously not going to grade out better than Rob Blake.


Vladimir Tarasenko: He's the man to watch in St. Louis. He turns 24 in December, and he's already a top five-10 goal scorer in the league. He had 37 goals last season and could hit 40 this season.

San Jose Sharks


Joe Thornton: I love the guy to death, but nine goals in 57 playoff games? Man, we need to work on that.

Jeremy Roenick: He's going to give the puck from his 600th goal to GM Doug Wilson's lawn-care provider.

Well, Thornton now has 24 goals in 132 playoff games. Guess it was never meant to be. Thornton is a Hall of Famer, though. Roenick will eventually make it. He retired with 513 goals. I have no idea what that sentence next to Roenick's name means.


Patrick Marleau: A fascinating study. I mean, on rsum alone, he should have supporters. He is a durable, great skater and a consistent scorer. He will get his 1,000th career point (just the 83rd guy ever to do so) this month. He has played in more than 1,300 games. His playoff numbers are consistent and good. He has seven seasons with double-digit power-play goals, and he once had a season with five shorthanded goals. However, he plays on the West Coast for a team that has not made an appearance in the Cup finals, so he's probably not near the front of a long line of guys on the bubble.

Tampa Bay Lightning


Vincent Lecavalier: Fact: Vinny was once put in an underwater cage with a giant chunk of tuna floating just outside. He then watched a great white shark pummel the tuna just inches from his face. That is just one of 4,584 things Vinny can do that I cannot. The list also includes beating me up and stealing my wife.

Brad Richards: Again, just one of my kind of guys. Like Drury, every part of his game has integrity, and he wins championships everywhere he goes. Not a coincidence, people. Learn the truth. Know the truth.

That was quite the odd Lecavalier blurb. Vinny had a nice career, won a Cup and made a barge full of money, but he won't make the Hall. Richards' career is probably coming to a close, and he also had a great career. Two Cups, tons of money, lots of good golf courses and a lot of respect. But also probably a little short of the Hall.

I didn't have Martin St. Louis as a Hall of Famer when I wrote the original, but he went on to keep producing and even win another scoring title. He is a lock for the Hall after going undrafted and being cut multiple times.


Steven Stamkos: Off-ice dedication and on-ice max effort makes him the role model of all role models.

Toronto Maple Leafs


Mats Sundin: I wish he would ask for a trade to the Penguins this season so he can begin the process of helping them win a Stanley Cup in 2008-09. Or San Jose this season. Or Philadelphia. Or, heck, anywhere! I see a Ray Bourque moment here.

Sundin did not get his Bourque moment, but the Penguins did win that Cup in 2009. And Sundin got in to the Hall in 2012.

Vancouver Canucks


Roberto Luongo: If his name was Bob Luongo and he had male-pattern baldness, I'd say no. I need more time.

Roberto is over 400 wins now, but he doesn't have a Vezina. He probably comes up short.


Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin: Like just about everything else in their lives, they will go into the Hall together.

Washington Capitals


Alex Ovechkin: I think people get the impression that because Ovechkin and Kovalchuk were born two years apart they are cookie-cutter imports who will show up every couple of seasons. They are not. They are once-in-a-generation talents who should be viewed as unique and special.

Ovechkin just turned 30, and he's already had a massive career. He will get his 500th career goal this season, and he has three MVPs. All that has eluded him is postseason success. Back in 2010, I wondered if Ovechkin had a chance to break Gretzky's record of 894 goals. Going back two years ago, this is what I projected for Ovechkin:

28: 51 (he had 51; Thin Mint for Bucci-Mane!)

29: 55 (53 last season)

30: 48 (Gretzky's last 40-goal season came when he had 41 at age 30)

31: 52

32: 45

33: 55

34: 40 (Steve Yzerman's last 30-goal season came when he had 35 at age 34)

35: 37

36: 32

37: 40 (Shanahan and Phil Esposito had 40-goal seasons at age 37)

38: 32 (Brett Hull had 37 at age 38)

39: 28

40: 27

If my year-by-year projections end up being accurate, including the 48 I have him scoring this season, Ovechkin would finish his age-40 season with the goal-scoring record. A lot of work needs to be done, of course, but the guy's a tank, and Jagr has shown you can play into your 40s and squeeze out another 50 to 100 goals. Just something to keep an eye on as you watch this future Hall of Famer.