Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane recently became only the 11th set of teammates to play 1,000 games together. Both long-time Blackhawk stars are going directly to the HHOF upon retirement. Today, we’re answering the question: How rare are HHOF teammates in today’s 32-team NHL?
As always, PPS will be our lifeline as we search the NHL for qualified teammates. As a refresh, the Hall of Fame tiers for players under the Adjusted Hockey HHOF Standards are: Inner Circle, Qualified, Borderline (Above), Borderline (Below), Hall of Very Good, Not a Candidate.
We’ll break down the likelihood of current NHL rosters having at least a pair of future HHOF teammates, as follows:
- Very Likely
- Could Go Either Way
All statistical figures and HHOF tiers are through the 2021-22 season. Let’s get to it!
A slam dunk, of course. Crosby and Malkin will be among the best of the HHOF’s best, still adding to their formidable legacies. Inner Circle HHOF forward duos playing for this length of time, however, are rare! Post-expansion, the only other instance of such elite forwards with more than a few seasons together are their Penguin predecessors, Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr.
For good measure, Letang and Jeff Carter (Borderline Below) double down on making the current Pittsburgh squad an elderly, yet impressively credentialed outfit.
[Checks driver’s license]… annnnnd Carter is the only one of the four older than me. Next!
Tampa Bay Lightning
Teams that win multiple Cups (let alone make three consecutive finals) naturally tend to end up well-represented in the HHOF. Just eight seasons into a decorated career, Andrei Vasilevskiy is already Hall of Very Good. He’s highly likely to join the Big Three in the HHOF if he can stay healthy and relevant a few more seasons.
As a bonus — while he wasn’t on the Cup-winning rosters and is on the 18th hole of a stellar career — super pest and former MVP Corey Perry is in the Borderline (Above) tier. Given the size of the NHL, to have five likely HHOF players at once is a king’s ransom of icons.
Los Angeles Kings
The Kings join Chicago (three), Pittsburgh (three), and Tampa Bay (two) as the salary cap era’s only multiple Cup-winning teams. Doughty and Kopitar remain a dynamic duo destined for a call to Toronto’s famous plaque room one day. Their latest challenge is staying dynamic enough to lead a new generation of Kings to relevance.
Jonathan Quick is a popular potential HHOF name that gets bounced around online, yet by PPS (274) he remains well back of the modern goaltending standard of 317. Despite the bonus for two Cups (and a Conn Smythe), with a whopping 32 post-expansion goalies ahead of Quick in PPS, his statistical case is weak.
Yes, Marchand is qualified. You may not love him (okay, you absolutely, positively, don’t love him), but with an Adjusted Pace of 36/44/80, defensive value, and several awesome playoff runs, Marchand belongs. A bigger surprise may be that David Pastrnak has recently crept by the standard, sitting Borderline (Above).
Very Likely 👍
Through last season, McDavid was already #16 on the post-expansion forward list, and by season’s end, he projects to join the Inner Circle. Reminder: he just started his eighth season! While McDavid is destined for best-of-all-time conversations, Draisaitl remains the underappreciated Malkin to McDavid’s Crosby. With an Adjusted Pace of 35/56/95, Draisaitl has already passed Martin St. Louis and Doug Gilmour on his HHOF path. His career ceiling has few limits.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Matthews’ first six seasons, adjusted for era, are only topped by Wayne Gretzky and Alex Ovechkin in terms of goal-scoring pace. Mind-blowing, really. While he needs to reach the unofficial 700-game threshold of recent vintage, a Calder, two Rockets, a Hart, and a Pearson are rarified air. Tavares may be more surprising, but he’s quietly been a force, underrated by virtue of starring in lean offensive times. I pumped JT’s tires on TSN’s Leafs Lunch last month, explaining his quietly rock-solid case.
Nathan MacKinnon (Qualified)
With only one active player in MacKinnon reaching Qualified status, this is the steamier of the takes as it offers a lot of runway for one of Cale Makar (in his fourth season) and Mikko Rantanen (in his eighth season). I don’t want to see a world where at least one of these two star talents doesn’t get over the HHOF hump. Rantanen already has a PPS of 213 (standard = 235) and is still getting better. Makar has a Norris, Stanley Cup, Smythe, and as much as upside as we’ve seen in decades from the blue line. I’m betting on one (or both) of them getting there!
Could Go Either Way ⌛
Alex Ovechkin (Inner Circle)
I suspect Caps’ fans are asking why they aren’t on this list by now! With Ovie securely in the #6 most-HHOF forward slot of all-time, who will join him? There are two solid candidates in Nicklas Backstrom and John Carlson. With no certainty of a productive return, and with a stronger candidate in Henrik Zetterberg still waiting, Backstrom seems correctly slotted in the Borderline (Below) tier for now.
Carlson is an excellent candidate (PPS of 253 vs. standard of 264). Yet, a LOADED generation of defencemen featuring Letang, Hedman, Chara, Duncan Keith, Shea Weber, Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson, Roman Josi, Alex Pietrangelo, and P.K. Subban may conspire to badly hurt him on timing.
Sergei Bobrovsky‘s PPS has him in the Hall of Very Good presently. With two Vezinas on his mantle, he would join Tim Thomas as the only multiple winner (since voting for the award began in 1981-82) not elected. Beyond Bob, one of greybeard Eric Staal (Borderline Below), Aleksander Barkov, Aaron Ekblad, and Matthew Tkachuk are the long-range HHOF targets.
While this team could yield zero HHOF members (none are Qualified yet by PPS), with five coals in this fire, they’re bumped up to Could Go Either Way territory.
Vegas Golden Knights
Iron man Phil Kessel (Borderline Below) and Cup-winning captain Pietrangelo (Hall of Very Good) could both wind up in the HHOF one day. Whether Jack Eichel or Mark Stone can be healthy enough to play at a sustained, elite level remains to be seen.
New York Rangers
Artemi Panarin (PPS = 240) is already Borderline (Above)! With the perilous year-to-year state of modern goaltending, reigning Vezina winner Igor Shesterkin will need to survive the odds to reach the HHOF. Adam Fox, a Norris winner at age-22, is off to a scorching start four years into his Broadway career. Three great options with upside here.
Fun and aggressive Norris winner Burns (became Qualified during 2022-23) is the leading man here, and we’re asking/hoping for many more great years from one of young guns Sebastian Aho or Andrei Svechnikov to place the Canes in this club.
Joe Pavelski (Borderline Above) has quietly passed the standard, but whether one of Art Ross winner Jamie Benn or Tyler Seguin (both surprises as Borderline Below), or Ryan Suter (Not a Candidate, by the numbers) can get there is fairly doubtful as of today.
St. Louis Blues
One player with a quietly solid HHOF case (and is absolutely not thought of as a potential HHOF talent) is two-time year-end All-Star, Vladimir Tarasenko. Both Tarasenko (Hall of Very Good) and his grizzled Smythe and Selke-winning teammate, Ryan O’Reilly (PPS of just 181), face stiff odds.
If we want to get really creative, there is a future universe where Connor Hellebuyck (Vezina winner) and one of Blake Wheeler or Mark Scheifele are elected. With PPS scores of 201 and 200, respectively, the two forwards have plausible cases if you squint hard enough. Extremely unlikely for the 36-year-old Wheeler, whereas the 29-year-old Scheifele should have many years left to shape his case.
Any other franchise not listed above would require either some extreme projection of very young player(s) or, as we say in the business, some creative accounting to generate two HHOF talents.
Despite a current franchise count of 32 and less than 2% of NHL players getting a call to the Hall, active HHOF teammates are not as rare as we might expect! We have five no doubt scenarios (counting the Blackhawks), another five with respectable to excellent odds, and a host of other teams that collectively should a yield a couple of HHOF pairings. Plus, there are those budding stars too early in their careers for speculation.
Let me know on Twitter if you think your favourite team was given the cold shoulder, or perhaps treated too generously (no real fan ever thinks that). HHOF speculation and projection is all part of the fun when it comes to active players!
* All statistics and PPS scores are through the 2021-22 season.
Eras, Adjusted Pace data, High Noon, PPS System, High Noon & PPS Player Cards from Adjusted Hockey;
All other data from Hockey-Reference.com