First member of the illustrious Red Army hockey team to defect and live to not yet tell the tale. First European to captain an NHL team. First Russian named to an NHL All Star team. First Toronto Maple Leaf to usurp Mats Sundin as season scoring leader since the Swede joined the Blue & White. First Olympic, World, World Junior gold medalist and Stanley Cup winner to play in the AHL. First European to score 76 goals in an NHL season – fittingly enough in the league`s 76th year.
Five notable firsts notched onto the stick of Alexander Mogilny`s career but one might elude him – becoming the sixth Russian born player to get into the Hockey Hall of Fame - in his first-year of eligibility. Steve Yzerman is considered a no brainer pick for the Hall in 2009. Other strong first-year candidates are Brett Hull, Brian Leetch, and Luc Robitaille.
Some recent players still waiting to add induction rings and plaques to their trophy cases are Doug Gilmour, Adam Oates, and Eric Lindros, along with Pavel Bure. That creates an interesting situation. Bure, Mogilny, and Sergei Fedorov(still active) were regarded as one of the greatest Russian hockey troikas.
When asked which of the three was the greatest natural talent, Fedorov had no hesitation, `` He has the most agility, the quickest release and the best shot. He was a little bit older and was the leader of our line.`` Fedorov beat his former linemate to become the first Russian to reach 1000 NHL points on Feb. 15, 2004. One of his first comments after the game was ``I want to share this with Alex,`` adding Mogilny would have been first if not for injury problems during his career.
Even members of an often jaded media took note of Mogilny`s talents. ``On the ice, he was the best at the no-look pass,`` stated long-time Fischler Report correspondent and co-owner of popular fan site tmlfans.ca Rob Del Mundo. ``Looking with his turned head in one direction, while passing the puck off, often at a right angle to a different teammate in another direction. The strategy worked especially well on the powerplay, where he'd be in the corner - look towards the point, and instead pass it cross-ice where a teammate (Roberts, Mats, etc.) had a tap-in.``
Marty Henwood, currently writing for the magazine Fairways had the chance to watch Mogilny during his stint with the Canucks. While not the high point of the crafty Russian`s career, he still stood out playing with Pavel Bure. `` They never quite lived up to their potential playing together, but man could they move,`recalled Henwood.
Mogilny is not likely to shed any tears if he doesn`t get a call from the induction committee, this or any year. His career history and stats, compounded with his off ice mentoring of Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin will no doubt get Mogilny his pic on a plaque inside the fabled building at the corner of Yonge & Front.
Getting in on the first go is impressive, but patience is a virtue worth waiting for. Perhaps the most fitting time for induction would be three years after Fedorov retires. Having Bure, Fedorov, and Mogilny enter together would be the bow on the gift of three historic hockey careers.