During his last stint as Devils coach, Jacques Lemaire unflinchingly called Patrik Elias the team’s best player during that doomed 2010-11 season. No one disagreed.

Until Ilya Kovalchuk scores another 700 points and wins a Stanley Cup with the Devils, or John MacLean comes out of retirement and reclaims some of his scoring records, Elias stands as the greatest forward in franchise history.

But will he be a Hall of Famer?

"I don’t think there is any doubt he’s a Hall of Fame player," coach Pete DeBoer said. "It’s a great luxury to have him on the ice and in the dressing room. He thinks like a coach and he has a world-class player’s skills. When you’re building a hockey player, you can’t ask for much more than that."

If you are on the committee that elects players to the Hall of Fame, you might.

"If he gets in, I should be in," said former NHL center Butch Goring, now an Islanders color commentator. "Our stats are the same, and I have four Stanley Cups and a Conn Smythe Trophy."

Goring’s 888 career points include 375 goals and 513 assists.

On the strength of a fast start that has Elias fourth in the league with 15 assists and the Devils again among the Eastern Conference’s elite, he enters Thursday night's game against the Washington Capitals with 365 goals, 548 assists and 913 career points. Elias’ career numbers are the most in Devils history. He’s won two Stanley Cups.

"Does Elias have a chance? Yes," said ex-NHL center Peter Mahovlich, now a scout for the Florida Panthers. "The last half of last year his game went up and this year, from what I’ve seen, he’s picked it up even another step.