It has been three years since I last checked in with my Hockey Hall of Fame (HHOF) model. Let’s see how it did recently and which active players are moving up the ranks.
Want up-to-date predictions for 8,291 current and historical NHL players? Click here!
When I last updated the model, in 2019, I had Jarome Iginla and Marian Hossa as shoo-ins to enter the Hockey Hall of Fame, with Daniel Alfredsson as plausable. Additionally I listed a host of plausible candidates from earlier periods. Since then Iginla and Hossa entered the hall quickly, and Alfredsson made it this year. Kevin Lowe and Doug Wilson also joined the hall in 2019, alongside Kim St-Pierre.
The model long had Doug Wilson as a serious candidate with 72% odds, so now he looks like an accurate prediction rather than an error. However that’s countered with low odds for Kevin Lowe at only 8.4%. He did win 6 Stanley Cups, but was never an All Star and put up weak offensive numbers. I imagine if I refit the model we’ll see an even more substantial emphasis on cups.
In 2021 there were no entrants to the HHOF. Alfredsson made it in 2022. Both Sedin brothers did as well, and they had 80% and 76% odds by the model (for Henrik and Daniel, respectively). Riika Sallinen entered after a long successful career. And Roberto Luongo made it to the hall, despite only 27% chances according to the model. Could we finally see HHOF voters swing in favour of some goaltending candidates? Henrik Lundqvist might be another test for the voters’ appetite for goalies. Like Luongo he has only two (first or second team) All Star nods and zero cups.
After about a decade of deep draft classes with a strong backlog of elite candidates, we’re seeing the pool dry up somewhat. None of the first-time eligible players for 2023 are definite entrants, with players like Henrik Lundqvist and Justin Williams having outside (but not implausible) chances, at 21% and 24% respectively.
The list of passed over strong candidates is still there, with Alexander Mogilny being one of the most notable omissions with 80% chances based on his NHL career alone. John LeClair is another, at 95% odds driven by his five All Star selections and a Stanley Cup. Keith Tkachuk has 91% chances based on two All Star selections and a big pile of points. But this really could be a year where anything goes, where we see players from the recent or distant past be selected. And we should certainly see one or more women players enter the hall, with Caroline Ouellette coming to mind quickly.
Star watch and big gainers
The list of active players is more interesting. There are now many with extremely high chances of entering the hall, with Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby first among them. Although we’re talking many nines, Ovechkin now sits fifth all time in probability, between Maurice Richard and Jean Beliveau. That’s good company.
Here are the list of the top 10 active NHL players by HHOF likelihood, treating their statistics so far as complete career stats.
There are a few new names in that list. Since I haven’t done this in three years, I was interested to see which players had the largest jumps in that time. The model has high resolution, returning probabilities close to 1 or close to 0 for most players. Players who progress to HHOF careers typically rapidly move from low probabilities to high probabilities over a small number of borderline years. We can see this play out with a list of the top 10 gainers. Note that the numbers don’t exactly add up because each is individually rounded.
Victor Hedman stands out as making a massive jump from borderline to a shoo-in. At first I was surprised, but his career already has that standing. He’s a 6 time All Star and a two time Stanley Cup champion. Not to mention his Norris trophy win, which isn’t even incorporated into the model. Only 33 players have that many All Star berths and cups. 30 of those are in the HHOF, with the other three being Sidney Crosby, Jaromir Jagr, and Victor Hedman. 12 of those 33 are defensemen. Hedman is behind the others (except for Tim Horton) in adjusted points, but not always by that much. Even if he retired today he would still make it into the hall (shall I mention again that Kevin Lowe made it recently?), yet he’s still in the middle part of his career. By the end he might truly stand among the all-time great defencemen.
Connor McDavid shot up the rankings. Not a lot of Hart winners fail to make the hall, or at least not ones with sustained elite performance evidenced with All Star berths. McDavid is still, obviously, in the early part of his career and we could quickly see him move from likely-but-not-guaranteed to bet-the-house-on-it range.
And I’m sure some people won’t like to hear this, but Brad Marchand is now on the inside track to make the Hockey Hall of Fame. He’s won a cup, he’s now a four-time All Star, and he backs that up with a respectable bounty of points. He has added a lot of points and some All Star berths since last time. I think if he retired today he might be one of those exceptions that stays out of the hall since he has been overshadowed by Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara on his own team, but he still has lots of time to move himself into a safer position. He’s still a step behind Paul Kariya in career accomplishments, and Kariya had to wait to get in. John LeClair is the only eligible player with a cup and as many points and All Star berths who isn’t in the hall. 1,200 points is a bit of a magic number where almost everyone above that is in the hall, and Marchand could get there by the end of his career given his consistent production in the last six seasons.
That inspired me to take a look at Patrice Bergeron. His odds are actually a lot lower than Marchand’s, at only 44% to Marchand’s 90%. That definitely feels wrong. The difference is that Marchand is a four-time All Star, while Bergeron has never been a first or second team All Star. Unfortunately the model doesn’t yet count Selke or Messier awards, which could be a clear opportunity to increase its accuracy if it ends up getting Bergeron wrong. It also doesn’t count non-NHL experience, like Bergeron’s Olympic success. In the absence of that, Bergeron looks like Jason Arnott. I believe his true probability is higher and this is a model gap. If he doesn’t retire, his odds might increase fairly quickly as he adds more points and moves from below 1,000 to above it. His odds moved from 11% to 44% from 2019 to 2022 and we could see similar increases if he keeps playing.
I’m glad I came back to this model, and it’s nice to see it perform fine through two more batches. Some day I’d like to extend it a bit more. We now have eight women in the HHOF, so I’d like to extend the model to support predictions for them. If anyone has reliable data sources for women’s leagues and Olympic stats, please let me know! I would also like the Olympic data to better fit some international players. Otherwise the model does very well on NHL performance. I’m very curious to see who enters the hall in 2023, so I probably won’t wait three years to check in next time!