Steven Stamkos, Alex Ovechkin, Connor McDavid and P.K. Subban have been selected as captains for their respective divisional teams at the 2018 All-Star Game, but who will join them in Tampa, Florida?
The full rosters for the 3-on-3 tournament — which will take place Jan. 28 at Amalie Arena — will be announced Wednesday. Each division’s roster will include six forwards, three defensemen and two goalies — and, no doubt, some snubs and players who only made the cut because they’re bold-type names.
Which players should make the team? Senior writer Greg Wyshynski (Eastern Conference) and national NHL reporter Emily Kaplan (Western Conference) picked the best 11-man roster for each division. Here’s who they think deserve to make the NHL’s midseason classic:
Just missed: Frederik Andersen, Toronto Maple Leafs; Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers; Evander Kane, Buffalo Sabres; Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins; David Pastrnak, Bruins; Tuukka Rask, Bruins; Mark Stone, Ottawa Senators; Vincent Trocheck, Panthers.
One the one hand, this was super easy: Not only are Stamkos, Kucherov, Hedman and Vasilevskiy all All-Star Game worthy, they’re also stars for the host city. Easy-peasy, done and done.
One the other hand … there are some underwhelming teams in this division that nonetheless need representation. So the Panthers, Sabres and Red Wings all snag forward slots that might have otherwise gone to worthy Bruins players; and Price gets a goalie spot instead of Rask, because the Canadiens can’t simply decline the invitation on the grounds that no one deserves it. As for Karlsson … hey, it’s a 3-on-3 tournament. He could be a minus-122 and we’re still putting him in this thing. –G.W.
Just missed: Sebastian Aho, Carolina Hurricanes; John Carlson, Washington Capitals; Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers; Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins; Justin Faulk, Hurricanes; Evgeny Kuznetsov, Capitals; Evgeni Malkin, Penguins; Artemi Panarin, Columbus Blue Jackets; Jakub Voracek, Flyers.
Josh Bailey, NHL All-Star. Well, there’s something we didn’t expect to write … ever. But the midseason classic should occasionally be a meritocracy rather than a collection of bold-type names, so Bailey makes the cut along with linemate Tavares.
Meanwhile, you might be asking how the NHL could justify not inviting Crosby to its All-Star Game party. Well, Kessel has better numbers this season. But, frankly, with Crosby having played in the event just twice since 2007 — including last year’s appearance in Los Angeles, where he was voted in as a captain — we just assume Kessel would have been playing anyway.
There were some tough decisions here. We opted for new blood in Hanifin over Faulk, who was an All-Star last season. We chose Giroux over Voracek, as the former might be a little more dynamic in the 3-on-3 format than the latter. We went with Gostisbehere over Carlson for the same reason, despite an outstanding season so far for the Capitals defenseman. –G.W.
This was a difficult division to select, probably because it’s so competitive. Scheifele would have been a lock, though his injury offered an out. Laine was the first miss in the forward group. It was difficult to choose between Schenn and Tarasenko, who have nearly identical stats. When compared against the No. 7 potential forward — say, Laine — however, it was clear both of the Blues forwards have had an impact during the first half of the season. On defense, Suter — who is shouldering 27-plus minutes a night — just missed the cut. Josi, the Predators’ captain, was also in contention. –E.K.
In the Pacific Division, the hardest choice was selecting a No. 2 netminder behind Quick. Although the Golden Knights goalies have been terrific, it’s unfair to choose one over the others, as they’ve split so much time in net this season. The Ducks’ Gibson and the Sharks’ Jones have both been inconsistent, but the slight nod goes to Gibson; he has played more games, has a higher save percentage and has had to face more adversity in front of him. Plus, it’s awkward that Jones’ No. 2, Aaron Dell, has the best backup stats in the NHL. The All-Star Game is all about promoting great individual performances, even when the team around you isn’t great. That’s what propels Ekman-Larsson into the third defensive position. — E.K.