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What will the 2018 Hockey Hall of Fame class look like?

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Seven inductees will be enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame Monday night in Toronto. So now that the 2017 group is getting honored, who should looking forward to getting a special phone call at the end of June letting them know that they’re a part of the 2018 class?

There’s definitely one lock and his name is Martin Brodeur. You don’t need a rundown of his resume to understand why he’s destined for the Hall. There are two players who are in the “probably, most likely” category to join him: Daniel Alfredsson and Martin St. Louis.

‘Alfie’ played 1,246 games, scored 444 goals and posted 1,157 points. He won the Calder Trophy, King Clancy Trophy, an esteemed Mark Messier Leadership Award, and was a six-time All-Star. Internationally, he won Olympic gold and silver medals and two silvers and two bronze medals with Sweden at the World Championship.

[Hockey Hall of Fame class of 2017 grew the game in many ways]

The undrafted St. Louis established himself with the Tampa Bay Lightning, helping the franchise to its first Stanley Cup championship in 2004. That same year he won the Hart, Art Ross and Pearson Trophies. Later in his career he would win three Lady Byng Trophies. Playing for Canada, he was part of gold medal winning teams that won the 2004 World Cup of Hockey and 2014 Olympics. After 1,134 NHL games, he finished with 391 goals and 1,033 points.

Both have a solid case: Strong NHL totals, individual hardware and international success.

Now it gets interesting. There are some good cases to be made to have another NHL player or two join Brodeur, Alfredsson and St. Louis. Here are our favorites for Hall inclusion next November.

Boris Mikhailov — The man Herb Brooks loved to remind his “Miracle on Ice” team looked like Stan Laurel had a decorated career playing for CSKA Moscow and representing the Soviet Union internationally. Domestically, Mikhailov scored 429 goals for CSKA and recorded 653 points, leading them to 11 Soviet League titles. On the international scene, the long time captain captured two Olympic gold medals and eight World Championships. And remember that it’s not the “NHL Hall of Fame,” but the “Hockey Hall of Fame.”

Sergei Zubov — His 771 points puts him in the top 20 of all-time among defensemen, as does his .72 points per game average. He has the 12th-most playoff points for defensemen with 112. Only Sergei Gonchar has more goals and points than Zubov among Russian blue liners. He’s a two-time Stanley Cup winner, four-time All-Star, and gold medalist at the Olympics and World Junior Championship. If Nicklas Lidstrom hadn’t dominated so much, how much more love would have been sent Zubov’s way?

Alexander Mogilny — He was the first Soviet player to defect west and when he arrived he quickly made his mark. His 76-goal 1992-93 season tied him for the league’s goal scoring lead with Teemu Selanne as he ended up with a 127-point campaign. A year later he was named the first European captain in NHL history by the Buffalo Sabres. When it was all said and done, the six-time All-Star had scored 473 goals and recorded 1,032 points. He’s a member of the IIHF’s Triple Gold Club, which means you’re a winner of the Stanley Cup, Olympics and World Championship.

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The Hall of Very Good

There seems to be a desire to have no middle ground between those in the Hall and those on the outside looking in. You’re either a Hall of Famer or you’re a plug. It’s OK to have some very good players left on the outside. That’s what should make the Hall of Fame so special. There are a number of very good eligible players currently awaiting the call who will may never get the honor.

Jeremy Roenick — 513 goals, 1,216 points, 1996 World Cup of Hockey champion, nine-time All-Star, silver medals at Canada Cup and Olympic Games.

JR’s elite level status only last for a few seasons in the early 1990s. After three-straight 100-point and 45-plus goal seasons, his production settled into the “very good” range in the mid-90s. While he certainly has the “fame” part down with the personality he’s shown during and after his NHL career, as well as his influential role in the 1996 movie Swingers, he did not win any individual hardware, so it’s likely he’ll continue to have a tough time finding a way in.

Keith Tkachuk — 538 goals, 1,065 points, 1996 World Cup of Hockey champion, Olympic silver medal.

Like Roenick, Tkachuk’s numbers are good, but he’s in a range where there are a handful of players with similar stats. While Joe Mullen’s inclusion may help Tkachuk or Roenick at some point in time, right now, he’s just on the outside with his Team USA buddy.

Pierre Turgeon —515 goals, 1,327 points, Lady Byng Trophy, five-time All-Star.

A very good player for a very long time. But other than a Byng, no other individual honors to help him standout from the rest.

Theo Fleury —455 goals, 1,088 points, seven-time All-Star, gold at the World Junior Championship, Canada Cup and Olympics, silver at the World Championship and World Cup of Hockey, 1989 Stanley Cup winner.

You’d love to see Fleury get in just looking at how he made a successful career out his talents, but he’s right there for me.

Doug Wilson — 237 goals, 827 points, 1982 Norris Trophy winner, eight-time All-Star, Canada Cup gold.

You don’t hear the San Jose Sharks general manager’s name much when these discussions come up. But examine his career and it was a pretty solid one. Top 20 in points, top 10 in points per game. Like Andreychuk this year, there are always some surprise inclusions every few years. Would it be a surprise if Wilson’s name is called one of these days?

Chris Osgood — 401 wins, 50 shutouts, three-time Stanley Cup champion, two-time Jennings Trophy winner.

A good goalie on some great Detroit Red Wings teams for a long time. How much has that hurt his candidacy?

Curtis Joseph — 454 wins, 51 shutouts, Olympic gold medal (though he was replaced by Brodeur after one game.)

A three-time Vezina Trophy finalist, Joseph had himself a fine career but unlike Osgood didn’t win a Cup. Is he Hall of Fame class or Hall of Very Good class?

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Rick Nash snaps out of slump, powers Rangers to huge win

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The New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers are two of the teams in the middle of the free-for-all that is the Eastern Conference playoff race that had five teams separated by just three points heading into Tuesday night.

Both teams had been rolling in opposite directions over the past week with the Flyers having won four in a row and five of their past six, while the Rangers were riding a three-game losing skid and had lost four out of five.

Their past two losses coming out of the bye week were especially ugly, losing to the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins (two other teams they are competing with) by a combined score of 12-4.

Both the Rangers’ and Flyers’ streaks came to an end in their game on Tuesday with the Rangers picking up a huge 5-1 win.

Rick Nash was the big star for the Rangers on Tuesday with a pair of goals, including a breakaway goal in the first period to tie the game at one after the Rangers gave up an early goal. It was a big performance for Nash because he had been mired in a brutal slump that had seen him go 12 consecutive games without a goal. He also had just one assist during that stretch. That slump has contributed to a down year offensively that has him on track for one of the least productive seasons of his career.

But he came through in a big way on Tuesday to help give the Rangers two huge points and move them three points ahead of the Flyers. The Flyers still have one game in hand while the two teams will still play three more games the rest of the season.

The Rangers’ win on Tuesday, combined with the Islanders’ 4-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils, moves the Rangers back into the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference for the time being.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Predators place forward Viktor Arvidsson on injured reserve

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Nashville Predators have placed forward Viktor Arvidsson on injured reserve with a lower-body injury and recalled forward Frederick Gaudreau from the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals.

The Predators made the move Tuesday afternoon.

Arvidsson was helped off the ice Monday during practice, and The Tennessean reports he tested himself during Tuesday morning’s skate.

The forward ranks third on the Predators with 13 goals and fourth with 27 points. The Predators already have Filip Forsberg on injured reserve with an upper-body injury.

Gaudreau has played 18 games with the Predators with three assists. He had 14 points in 21 games with the Admirals this season.

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

WATCH LIVE: Philadelphia Flyers at New York Rangers

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 season continues on Tuesday night, as the New York Rangers host the Philadelphia Flyers at 7:00 p.m. ET.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

PROJECTED LINES

Rangers

Rick NashMika ZibanejadPavel Buchnevich
Mats ZuccarelloJ.T. Miller – Vinni Lettieri
Jimmy VeseyDavid DesharnaisPaul Carey
Michael Grabner – Peter Holland – Jesper Fast

Ryan McDonaghNick Holden
Brady SkjeiKevin Shattenkirk
Marc StaalSteven Kampfer

Startling goalie: Henrik Lundqvist

[Flyers look to push winning streak to five games against Rangers]

Flyers

Claude GirouxSean CouturierTravis Konecny
Michael RafflValtteri FilppulaJakub Voracek
Jordan WealNolan PatrickWayne Simmonds
Taylor LeierScott LaughtonJori Lehtera

Ivan ProvorovShayne Gostisbehere
Robert HaggAndrew MacDonald
Brandon ManningRadko Gudas

Startling goalie: Brian Elliott

 

Golden Knights’ defense coming into focus with signings

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As the Vegas Golden Knights’ success gradually goes from shocking to accepted, there’s still the question of what this team might look like next season and beyond. Such questions are only natural when you consider all the key players who still need contract extensions.

Golden Knights management is chipping away at those questions regarding their defense in 2018-19, particularly this week.

On Monday, the Golden Knights signed local favorite and rugged defenseman Deryk Engelland to a one-year extension worth $1.5 million. (That deal includes $1M in potential performance bonuses, according to Cap Friendly.)

One day later, the team announced a two-year extension for Jon Merrill (pictured). The deal is for $2.75M overall, so it will make for a $1.375M cap hit in 2018-19 and 2019-20.

The Golden Knights now have five defensemen on their current roster who are signed through 2018-19, if not longer: Engelland, Merrill, Nate Schmidt, Brayden McNabb, and Brad Hunt. McNabb is locked up the longest, with a $2.5M cap hit kicking in next season and expiring after 2020-21.

The most interesting remaining defensemen to sort out are Colin Miller and Shea Theodore, both pending RFAs. The Golden Knights have been buying up blueliners at bargain rates, but Theodore and Miller could be tougher nuts to crack contracts-wise. (Two UFA defensemen Luca Sbisa and Clayton Stoner on IR.)

Quick look at Engelland and Merrill

Engelland, 35, has been one of the Golden Knights’ ice time leaders with 19:39 per night, collecting 13 points while limiting his time in the penalty box (16 PIM in 41 games) compared to his usual numbers. He’s not perfect, but it’s conceivable that he’ll be worth that minimal cost to Vegas, especially since he’s an ambassador for the still-new franchise.

While Vegas hopes Engelland can bring that veteran presence for another year, they’re likely banking on Merrill to be more effective at a cheap rate.

The 25-year-old has been dealing with injuries and other issues, limiting him to 14 games played.

***

These defensive signings aren’t as important as locking up Jonathan Marchessault, nor is it as crucial as making the right call with the likes of James Neal and David Perron. With Malcolm Subban and Marc-Andre Fleury seeing their deals expire after 2018-19, management will need to make some goaltending decisions not that long from now.

A little bit of greed can inspire players to go that extra mile and stay that much hungrier, yet it’s also comforting to sometimes have some answers. After this week, there’s some clarity on the blueline, even if some decisions still need to be made.

And, hey, the Golden Knights haven’t really locked themselves into bad contracts yet. Old teams could probably learn a thing or two from these new kids.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.