The Hockey Hall of Fame welcomed its newest class on Monday night in Toronto, which means it’s time to start speculating on next year’s immortals.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there wasn’t a 2021 class for the Hall. That means players like Henrik and Daniel Sedin carry over to the Class of 2022 for consideration, which certainly complicates things for next year’s eligibility newbies and the 18-person selection committee.
Here’s our current ranking of eligible player candidates for the Class of 2022. Keep in mind that for players, the class can feature a maximum of four male and two female honorees:
1. Caroline Ouellette, forward (first year)
The only absolute lock for the Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2022. The forward is one of only five athletes to win a gold medal in four consecutive Winter Olympics, helping the Canadian women to the top of the podium in 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014, along with Olympic silver in 1998. She won six gold medals in the IIHF women’s world championships. Ouellette had a 2.36 points-per-game average in 97 games with University of Minnesota-Duluth.
She also won the 2009 Clarkson Cup with the Montreal Stars, becoming only one of three players to win the Cup, Olympic gold and worlds gold. The other two are Hayley Wickenheiser and Jayna Hefford. Guess where they’re currently enshrined.
The acceptable cop-out here would have been to make the Sedins tied for second overall. But it’s a demonstrable fact that Henrik is the better Sedin. He had more points (1,070) although they had the same career points-per-game average (0.80). He was the better defensive player of the two. Critically, he won the 2009-10 Hart Trophy as league MVP for posting a 112-point season when Daniel Sedin was limited to 63 games due to injury.
Henrik was third in scoring among centers during his 17-year NHL career, behind only Joe Thornton and Sidney Crosby, two Hall of Fame locks if they were eligible today. The most hilarious outcome for next year’s Hall of Fame class would be for former Canucks GM Brian Burke to nominate Henrik Sedin, while no one else nominates Daniel Sedin, and only one twin gets in on the first ballot. But that’s not likely to happen because …
3. Daniel Sedin, right wing (first year)
… if Henrik Sedin is a Hall of Famer, Daniel Sedin probably is, too. The winger had 1,041 points in 1,306 games. He was the goal-scorer in this remarkable tandem, although his 393 goals ranked him only fourth among left wings during his career — in fact, he trailed fellow first-time eligible player Rick Nash in that category. Daniel won his scoring title in 2010-11 with 104 points and captured the Pearson as the NHLPA player of the year, but he was second in the MVP voting to Corey Perry.
The Sedins were such a sensational novelty as a duo — not only in hockey history, but in pro sports history — that they should rightfully be enshrined together. Heck, they should be on the same plaque, even though Henrik Sedin once told us that “we’d have separate [ones], for sure.”
4. Alex Mogilny, right wing (13th year)
The momentum continues to build behind Mogilny’s candidacy as he lingers on the ballot much longer than his remarkable career should have warranted.
He’s 54th all-time in goals scored (473), 53rd in adjusted goals and 36th in goals-per-game average (0.478). He had a 1.04 points-per-game average — good for 42nd all time — playing the majority of his career in the defensive-trap era. A Triple Gold Club member, Mogilny was an important part of hockey history as the first Soviet defection to the NHL.
Luongo has the numbers for the Hall of Fame: 1,044 games played, second all time; 489 wins, good for fourth all time, having played on significantly less successful teams than Martin Brodeur (691), Patrick Roy (551) and Marc-Andre Fleury (495) ahead of him; and a .919 career save percentage and 77 shutouts, both ninth best all time. He backstopped Canada to Olympic gold in 2010, and was a member of two IIHF world championship teams.
The only thing he doesn’t have is a Vezina Trophy, having been a finalist three times. The closest he came to winning was 2006-07, when he finished second to Brodeur (and second for MVP honors to Sidney Crosby). A well-liked, star player and potentially a great Canucks-centric complement to the Sedins in this class. But only six goalies have gotten in the Hall since 2003; is Luongo a first-ballot guy?
Gonchar had the misfortune of not being Nicklas Lidstrom. The Detroit Red Wings Hall of Famer — considered one of the best defensemen in hockey history — is the only defenseman who amassed more goals (236) and points (985) than Gonchar did (220 goals, 811 points) from 1994-95 to 2014-15, which was the span of the Russian defenseman’s career.
Gonchar is 17th all time in career points by a defenseman, and the names in front of him are all in the Hall save for Gary Suter (14th). He won the Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 2009 and finished in the top five for the Norris Trophy four times.
The former Senators captain could be part of a Swedish invasion with the Sedins in 2022, or he could continue to inch closer to being in “The Hall of Very Good” instead. His 444 goals are 64th all time and his 1,157 points are 54th. He won the Calder Trophy in 1995-96 and won Olympic gold along with the Sedins in 2006, plus a silver in 2014. But he never won another individual award or the Stanley Cup.
Jarome Iginla was enshrined for being a great player and an even better ambassador for the game. Alfredsson fits that description, too.
8. Jennifer Botterill, forward (eighth year)
Botterill helped Team Canada win Olympic gold in 2002, 2006 and 2010 and won five IIHF world championships, capturing MVP in that tournament twice. But it was her dominance in the NCAA that sets her apart. Playing with Harvard, she amassed 319 points in 113 games, scoring at least a point in all but one of her college games. She was the first player to win the Patty Kazmaier award twice as the top player in U.S. women’s college hockey. Botterill also had 155 points in 78 CWHL games.
She’s a player who could be in already, and whose profile has only grown due to her work in the Canadian media. But the Hockey Hall of Fame selection committee has enshrined only two women’s players in the same year once: Cammi Granato and Angela James, in the Class of 2010.
Tkachuk amassed 538 goals (32nd all time) and 1,065 points in 1,201 games over his 18-season career. He led the league in goals once (1996-97) but was otherwise a model of consistency. Unfortunately for Tkachuk, it was a solid but unspectacular career, never winning an individual award or a Stanley Cup — although he won World Cup gold in 1996 and Olympic silver in 2002.
But here’s the thing: Every player ahead of him on the goals list who’s eligible to be in the Hall of Fame is, in fact, a Hall of Famer. Theory: The success of Matthew and Brady Tkachuk have helped keep their dad on the immortality radar.
Zetterberg finished his career with 960 points in 1,082 games, including 337 goals. A great two-way forward, he never won a Selke Trophy and was nominated only once. He was second for the Calder in 2002-03 as well. His greatest individual accomplishment was winning the Conn Smythe in the Red Wings’ 2008 Stanley Cup win. That ring earned him Triple Gold Club status, along with championships in the 2006 Olympics and the 2006 world championships with Sweden.
One could argue his former teammate Pavel Datsyuk has a stronger case. One could also argue that Guy Carbonneau’s enshrinement swung the door open for the former Red Wings captain.
Among the other players still under consideration are centers Jeremy Roenick, Rod Brind’Amour and Patrik Elias, winger Theo Fleury and goalies Curtis Joseph and Mike Vernon. Another first-year candidate is forward Rick Nash, whose 437 goals rank him 71st all time.
One interesting candidate in her first year of eligibility: Former Team USA star Meghan Duggan, who captained the Americans’ 2018 PyeongChang gold-medal team.
As for the builders category, the candidates include Herb Carnegie, a pioneering Black player; innovative goalie coach Francois Allaire and former Michigan coach Red Berenson.