Which current NHL skaters have a case for the Hall of Fame?

George Stroumboulopoulos sat down with 2015 Hockey Hall of Fame inductees Nick Lidstrom, Sergei Fedorov, Phil Housley and Chris Pronger about getting the call and the honour involved in being inducted.

The Hockey Hall of Fame is hallowed ground for members of the NHL and fans of the game. We all like to discuss and debate the players who will get there one day, or the players who aren’t there that we think should be. With the pending inductions of Nicklas Lidstrom, Sergei Fedorov, Phil Housley and Chris Pronger, it seems like more of a closing of a loop than anything.

All four of the aforementioned players seemed like certain future Hall of Famers well before their careers had ended.

So let’s turn our attention to current NHLers. Which players do we know are destined for the Hall based purely on their statistical impact and greatness to date?

To help determine this we can apply a statistical tool known as Probit Regression. Essentially this method lets us derive a formula that can assess the probability of an active skater being enshrined in the Hall of Fame using data for past players.

As a sample of skaters to apply the regression to, I gathered data on all inactive skaters in NHL history who had produced 0.45 points per game or higher and played 80 or more games in the NHL from hockey-reference.com. Believe it or not, there are actually members of the HHOF with fewer than 80 games played, but I ignored them for the purpose of this analysis.

In order to come at this from a couple of directions, I actually ran two regressions: one that weighted total counting stats, player position and games played, and another that focused more on goal-scoring rate than total goals. To balance the two perspectives, I then averaged the resulting probabilities for the active skaters in the NHL. What we get is an interesting look at the 13 active skaters in the NHL who have a 50 per cent chance or higher of making the Hockey Hall of Fame when they retire. They are listed along with their relevant statistics and their HHOF probability below:

Player Pos GP G A Pts G/GP Defensive Point Shares HHOF Probability
Jaromir Jagr RW 1560 728 1084 1812 0.467 37.6 284%
Sidney Crosby C 639 304 555 859 0.476 19.5 178%
Alex Ovechkin RW/LW 770 481 427 908 0.625 18.5 177%
Joe Thornton C 1297 360 907 1267 0.278 36.7 126%
Jarome Iginla RW 1404 595 642 1237 0.424 34.1 105%
Evgeni Malkin LW/C 599 272 440 712 0.454 15.1 102%
Pavel Datsyuk C 887 298 571 869 0.336 27.3 97%
Patrik Elias RW/LW/C 1224 406 611 1017 0.332 34.3 87%
Marian Hossa LW/RW 1183 487 573 1060 0.412 30.7 86%
Steven Stamkos C 506 282 225 507 0.557 10.1 77%
Henrik Zetterberg C/LW 848 299 501 800 0.353 23.8 70%

(Stats as of Saturday, Nov. 7)

The three names at the top of the list probably come as no surprise to any NHL observer. But what may shock some is that Joe Thornton has a better case for the Hall of Fame than Jarome Iginla if they both retired today, despite scoring 235 fewer goals.

Most impressive would be how quickly Steven Stamkos has found himself on this list. He is only 25 years of age and already has a better than 75 per cent chance of being inducted into the Hall of Fame. It seems like some people are ready to nominate the likes of Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel before their careers have really begun. In reality, the fact that the players in the above table are the only active skaters with more than a 50 per cent probability for Hall of Fame induction indicates how amazingly hard it is to sustain that level of excellence long term.

It seems likely that much of the restriction on players attaining the levels of production necessary for induction would be the contrast between the scoring inflation of the 1980s and the current rates of goal production.

Congratulations are in order for this year's induction class, and it will be interesting to see how perspectives shift down the line thanks to reduced offensive production due to league parity and the rise of the goaltender over the past decade or so. It seems the thresholds necessary to qualify for induction may drop if the scoring decline continues.

If things don't shift, the Hall will become elite territory that very few skaters can attain.