Markus Naslund should be in the Hockey Hall of Fame

Markus Naslund Vancouver Canucks

Markus Naslund was the NHL’s most-feared sniper at the peak of his career in the early 2000s (Source: User: Krm500, Wikipedia).

Markus Naslund deserves to be in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Some people might probably scoff at the idea of Naslund being in the hall, but there is a strong case to be made for his induction.

Naslund began his National Hockey League career in the 1993-94 season with the Pittsburgh Penguins, showing glimpses of promise but never developing into a consistent player. On March 20, 1996, he was involved in one of the most lopsided trades in NHL history when he was acquired by the Vancouver Canucks for Alexander Stojanov. With the Canucks, Naslund established himself as one of the premiere players in the game. After 12 seasons in Vancouver, eight of which as captain, he played one final NHL season with the New York Rangers before retiring in 2009.

Naslund’s quick release and wicked wrist shot, as well as his puck-handling and skating abilities, allowed him to become one of the game’s elite. In The Hockey News’ 2003 special edition, “The Best of Everything in Hockey,” a panel of 42 writers voted Naslund as the NHL’s Best Pure Goal Scorer at that time. From 2001-02 to 2003-04, Naslund scored 123 goals and recorded 278 points, both of which were the most of any player in the league. His scoring prowess stems much further than just these three seasons.

From the 1996-97 season, Naslund’s first full season with the Canucks, to his final NHL season in 2008-09 with the Rangers, only six players in the league scored more goals than his 367. Only nine players scored more points than Naslund over that same time frame.

From 1998 to 2006, only two players scored more points than Naslund’s 563 — Jaromir Jagr and Joe Sakic. Naslund played his entire career during the height of the Dead Puck Era, when scoring was at an all-time low throughout the league, so that makes what he was able to accomplish much more impressive.

Naslund’s best NHL season came in 2002-03, when he scored 48 goals and added 56 assists for a total of 104 points in 82 games, all of which were career bests. He won the Lester B. Pearson Award, which has since been renamed the Ted Lindsay Award, as the league’s best player as voted by the National Hockey League Player’s Association. He lost out on both the Art Ross and Rocket Richard Trophies, losing to a pair of Colorado Avalanche teammates, fellow Swede Peter Forsberg by two points, and Milan Hejduk by two goals respectively. Naslund also finished second to Forsberg in Hart Trophy voting as MVP, but was named the league’s most valuable player by The Hockey News.

Naslund is a three-time First Team All Star, having been selected in 2002, 2003 and 2004, and was named to the NHL All-Star Game five times, in 1999 and from 2001-04.

Internationally, Naslund has represented Sweden on numerous occasions, and because the Hockey Hall of Fame is not the National Hockey League of Fame, his international accolades only add to his Hall of Fame case. He has played in two World Junior Championships, four World Championships, two World Cups and one Winter Olympics. He holds the record for most goals scored in a single World Juniors tournament, scoring 13 in 1993. He won silver medals at the World Juniors in 1992 and 1993, one silver medal at the World Championships in 1993, and bronze medals at the Worlds in 1999 and 2002. Naslund is currently third all-time in goals scored among Swedish-born players, and eighth in points. On April 21, 2014, he was inducted into the Swedish Hockey Hall of Fame.

In his 15 NHL seasons, Naslund scored 395 goals and added 474 assists for a total of 869 points in 1,117 games. At first glance, his numbers are impressive, but some may find it hard to consider them to be Hall of Fame-worthy. However, considering Naslund played in the Dead Puck Era and not only produced but was the best player in the entire NHL for a number of years, he should receive some heavy consideration in future Hall of Fame voting.

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