by PuckStopsHere on 02/28/13 at 12:28 AM ET
One question I have spent a lot of time thinking about is at what point in their career a player first establishes himself as a Hall of Famer regardless of what may happen in the rest of their career. This selection made the threshold about a month ago and I have yet to write the post. I believe Evgeni Malkin has now cemented himself as a future Hall of Famer.
The final step in this accomplishment was his being probably the best player in the world during the lockout. Despite missing the beginning and end of the KHL season because it occurred before and after the NHL lockout, Malkin wound up the third highest scorer in the league this season. Malkin had the highest points per game in the KHL. He finished more than 20 points ahead of any other NHL player who spent part of the season in the KHL.
Malkin already was an established NHL star. He is the reigning NHL MVP. He is a two time top scorer in the league. He was named MVP of the 2009 Stanley Cup playoffs. He is a three-time First Team All Star. These are the credentials of a Hall of Famer regardless of what happens in the remainder of his career.
Early in Malkin's career he established himself as a star. He was rookie of the year in 2006/07, when he made his NHL debut. By his second season he was runner up for the Hart Trophy. The NHL had been billing Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin as the two young stars who would lead the NHL into the future. It soon became clear that Malkin was the third member of the group, though as his NHL career started a year later than the others he was behind them in career accomplishments.
Malkin missed time in both the 2009/10 and 2010/11 seasons due to injury and was not among the NHL's top scorers. Thus he fell from serious argument about if he was the best player in the NHL. Last season when he remained healthy he reignited the argument with his Hart Trophy win.
This season he had a good start with 21 points in 18 games but is currently out with a concussion. He will likely be unable to add to his already impressive list of rewards due to this missed time but he is a Hall of Famer in my eyes. Anyone who has been in the debate for best player in the NHL for this long - at least when healthy - and who has as many awards as Malkin has won in his career is a Hall of Famer. He is still only 26 years old. A lot of his career is still to come.
This gives me thirteen active (or at least non-retired) players who future Hall of Famers regardless of what happens in the rest of their careers. They are:
As the season continues we may see more players added to this list. We also have some players who may be close to retirement. Neither Tim Thomas nor Chris Pronger has played a game yet this season and it is likely that neither will. That makes them candidates for retirement.
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