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Kane is building a career worthy of the Hall of Fame

Let’s hope he continues to prosper throughout a long and successful career, but he has accomplished so much in so little time that it already merits discussion. At age 24 and with six seasons with the Blackhawks behind him, the question is valid: Is Patrick Kane headed for the Hockey Hall of Fame?

Answer: Yes.

Kane already has built a resume that would be considered for the Hall of Fame if his career ended today. Voters would need to take into account what he accomplished during his career, if it were cut short. Gale Sayers, for example, had only five productive seasons before a knee injury ended his NFL career.

This is not to say Kane in hockey equals Sayers in football, which would be a separate debate comparing two sports from two eras 40-plus years apart. That discussion isn’t worth the trouble. The parallel does help explain that a player can reach the Hall of Fame with a smaller sample size if – IF – he was productive enough during that period.

Kane has been one of the 10 best forwards in the last six years when all factors are considered, especially when adding bonus points for championships and performances in big games. Even if his next six seasons are as productive as his first six, taking him to age 30, the South Buffalo native would have an argument for induction.

To review, Kane has won two Stanley Cups in the last four seasons, the second coming Monday night in a 3-2 victory over the Bruins in Boston. He skated away with the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the postseason, becoming only the fourth American in history, and third straight, to win the award.

He led the Blackhawks with 19 points (nine goals) in 23 playoff games this year. He had 10 goals and 28 points in 22 postseason games in 2010 and scored the Cup-winning goal in overtime to beat the Flyers in 2010. Jonathan Toews won the Conn Smythe that year after leading the Blackhawks with 29 points (seven goals).

Kane had a hat trick in the deciding game over the Kings in the conference finals this year. He had a goal and helped set up the winner in Game Four against the Bruins to tie the series, then had two goals in the next game to lead the Blackhawks to within a win of the title. He has 29 goals and 71 points in 74 career playoff games.

Yes, others have been more productive in the postseason over the past six years, including Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. All are likely headed for the Hall.

Another is Daniel Briere, who had 37 goals and 72 points in 68 postseason games over the past six years. He has been a terrific player in the postseason, but he has never won a Cup and lacks career production during the regular season (286 goals, 659 points in 847 games) to warrant induction into the Hall.

David Krejci had 29 goals and 73 points in 81 playoff games over the same span. He won the Stanley Cup. He did not win the Conn Smythe in 2011, when the Bruins won it all. He also has failed to put up career numbers during the regular season (91 goals, 309 points in 424 games) that would be worthy of consideration.

Kane, who was selected first overall in 2007, was named Rookie of the Year in 2008 and is a three-time all-star. He would have been selected this year, but the game was canceled with the lockout.

He was a key contributor in the United States winning a silver medal in the 2010 Olympics. He finished second this season behind Martin St. Louis for the Lady Byng Trophy, given to the player who exhibits sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct.

He has averaged 27 goals and 78 points per 82 games for his career. If he continues the same pace for another eight years, or until he’s 32, he would have 365 goals and 1,048 points in 1,102 games for his career. That’s well within reach, assuming he stays healthy, but would it be enough?

Although his statistics would fall short among recent forwards inducted into the Hall, the era in which he played would need to be considered. It has been much more difficult to score during his six-year career than it was in the 1990s and earlier. Goals were in decline for the fourth straight season this year.

Glenn Anderson, who was inducted in 2008, scored 498 goals and 1,099 points in 1,129 career games. However, most of his production came when he played with Wayne Gretzky and the high-scoring Oilers in the 1980s. Anderson had two 50-goal seasons and three 100-point seasons. He also had fewer than 75 points in each of his final eight seasons.

If anything, Kane’s numbers are likely to increase as he continues maturing into a smarter, more complete player. He has 282 points in 284 games over the past four seasons. He’s better overall than at any previous stage of his career. He’s also coming off a career year in which he had 23 goals and 55 points in the lockout-shortened season.

Kane this year was on pace for 39 goals and 94 points over an 82-game season.

In the previous five years, only Crosby, Malkin, Steven Stamkos, Daniel Sedin, Corey Perry, Alex Ovechkin and Jarome Iginla have had more than 39 goals and 94 points in the same season. It’s an impressive list.

Kane has won more Cups than all of them. And he’s just getting started at age 24.

If he maintains the same effectiveness and plays long enough, he’ll waltz into the Hall. It’s a big IF, but he appears to be on his way.