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The Puck Stops Here

I NOW Consider Ilya Kovalchuk A Hall Of Famer

One of my favorite questions is to ask when currently active players make it to the level where they are worthy of Hall of Fame induction regardless of what happens in the rest of their career.  Today I will argue that Ilya Kovalchuk has made it to that level.

Kovalchuk was clearly on a Hall of Fame track when he left the NHL.  He was a point per game player with 417 goals and 816 points in 816 games played.  His career numbers are likely lower than they should be because Kovalchuk played in the dead puck era and missed time in his NHL career with two lockouts.  He should have bigger offensive numbers to show for his career.  Without lockouts he could have 500 regular season NHL goals.  Nevertheless his NHL accomplishments are impressive.  He had won a Richard Trophy, a Calder Trophy and made the first and second team all star.  It was reasonable to project that if he stayed in the NHL he would have been a 600 or 700 goal scorer.  The problem was he abruptly ended his NHL career to "retire" and then play in the KHL.

At the point of his retirement he was 30 years old and had several years left in his prime.  He was almost certain to make Hall of Fame levels soon.  He was probably one big season away.

The biggest flaw in Kovalchuk's NHL career is his lack of playoff success.  That comes from playing the majority of his NHL career with the lowly Atlanta Thrashers.  He had one significant playoff run where he made the Stanley Cup finals with the New Jersey Devils.  He tied for the playoff goal scoring lead that season, so it is hard to argue that his playoff record represents a lack of opportunity and nothing else.

Kovalchuk was very close to being a Hall of Famer when he left the NHL.  He needed to maintain his career at a high level in the KHL.  Kovalchuk has had two years in the KHL.  This season he was named MVP of the KHL playoffs (the Gagarin Cup).  He passed the award onto teammate Evgenii Dadonov, who outscored him in the playoffs.  He has been named captain of the Russian team in the World Hockey Championships.  It is clear he continues to play at a top level.

The Hall of Fame committee has been slow to recognize accomplishments outside the NHL despite the fact it is a Hockey Hall of Fame and not merely limited to the NHL.  Kovalchuk almost makes the Hall based on his NHL achievements.  His KHL success should be enough to gain induction.  I am not certain the Hall of Fame committee will agree.  It took well over 20 years to finally induct Mark Howe since he played in the WHA instead of the NHL at the beginning of his career, so those politics can be tough to overcome.  However the Hall of Fame committee should not be petty.  Kovalchuk is a Hall of Fame talent.

With Kovalchuk's addition to my active Hall of Famers list we have fourteen players.  Here they are:

Zdeno Chara
Sidney Crosby
Pavel Datsyuk
Sergei Gonchar
Jarome Iginla
Jaromir Jagr
Duncan Keith
Ilya Kovalchuk
Roberto Luongo
Evgeni Malkin
Alexander Ovechkin
Martin St Louis
Tim Thomas
Joe Thornton

As hockey continues to be played this season we may continue to add to the list.  Retirements this summer may shorten it.  Tim Thomas has not played this season, but he has not officially retired either.  Should he not make an effort to be on a roster for next season, I will consider him effectively retired.

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redxblack's avatar

The Hockey Hall of Fame is basically controlled in large measure by the NHL. Leaving for the KHL means he won’t likely be considered (like Federov). Unfair? Not data based? Both true, but irrelevant.

Posted by redxblack from Akron Ohio on 05/05/15 at 02:59 PM ET


Isn’t the upcoming ballot the first time Federov is eligible. I’ll bet he gets in pretty soon. Ilya will be a different story. I’d argue he deserves it but I am a little biased having watched him a LOT since preseason game 1 in the NHL. His credentials on the world stage should give him a boost.

The real travestry is Makarov. No way a player like him should be excluded from the Hall of Fame and it’s an embarrassment that Canadian bias against him is likely the reason he is excluded.

Posted by evileye on 05/05/15 at 04:27 PM ET

Luongo-is-my-hero's avatar

From the creator of fascinating articles such as ” ” is not an elite team,  ” ” is an Elite player, to First round playoff predictions and corsi +/- comes the next tantalizing news from the blogosphere.  TPSH now believes Kovulchuk belongs in the Hockey hall of fame.

Posted by Luongo-is-my-hero on 05/05/15 at 11:13 PM ET

redxblack's avatar

I didn’t think they counted KHL years as active, but I’m likely wrong. I thought he had been eligible for three years now. That said, I’ve heard zero buzz about Federov getting in. Had he stayed with DRW his entire career, he’d have been lionized. They might even erect a statue of him and Yzerman to compliment the Production Line statues.

Posted by redxblack from Akron Ohio on 05/06/15 at 09:50 AM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

KHL years count as active.  Playing in any significant league in the world counts as active.  This is Fedorov’s first year of eligibility and I bet he gets inducted.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 05/06/15 at 12:05 PM ET

redxblack's avatar

Is the KHL significant? wink

Posted by redxblack from Akron Ohio on 05/06/15 at 01:20 PM ET

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imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.

Why am I blogging? I want to.

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