With this season’s All-Star Game heading to Tampa Bay, there was never really a question that one or two faces familiar to Lightning fans would be headlining the exhibition contest. However, given the team’s dominance of not just the Atlantic Division or Eastern Conference but the entire league, it has seemed as though we could be staring down an all-star outing that is chock full of hometown stars. And on Wednesday, the NHL officially announced the first Lightning player who will be representing the league’s top team at the All-Star Game in late January.
As the NHL’s All-Star Fan Vote culminated, with fans making their selections for the leaders for each respective division’s all-star squad, it was announced that captaining the Atlantic All-Stars would be none other than Tampa Bay’s own Steven Stamkos. The Lightning captain’s entrance into the showcase outing was a no-brainer, of course, and he was likely to be at the game whether the fans voted him in or not. Midway through the season, Stamkos, who missed almost the entirety of the 2016-17 season, has registered 17 goals and 50 points, tying him for second in league scoring and putting him right in the race for the scoring lead.
Also voted into the All-Star Game, though, were captains for the three other divisions. Leading the Metropolitan Division is resurgent Washington Capitals sniper Alex Ovechkin, who, after a “down year” in which he scored 33 goals, is on pace to hit the 50-goal mark for the eighth time in his career. Captaining the Pacific Division squad is Connor McDavid, the Edmonton Oilers’ phenom and reining league MVP. And guiding the Central Division all-stars is show-stopping Nashville Predators defenseman P.K. Subban, who will certainly inject some much needed personality into the affair.
The captains weren’t the only all-star related announcement Wednesday, however, as the league also took the opportunity to show off the new-look jerseys for the event. Each jersey has its own distinct color scheme — no more one white, one black set-up — and bears the NHL crest on the front with the divisional name stitched into the collar. The one identifying feature, one that’s a tip of the cap to the host city, is the silhouette of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge cables that can be found on the numbers on both the back and sleeves of the jersey. The uniforms also feature the same side striping that was worn by teams during the World Cup of Hockey.
The specific designs for each team can be seen below, along with a projection of who will fill out the All-Star Game rosters in time for the Jan. 27-28 event. Each roster will follow the same format as the past two iterations, featuring six forwards, three defensemen and two goaltenders:
Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning*
Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres
Dylan Larkin, Detroit Red Wings
Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers
Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning
Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs
Torey Krug, Boston Bruins
Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators
Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens
Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning
As hosts and the undisputed top team in the league, the Lightning deserve to have several representatives at the game. And, really, even if it seems as though the roster slants too heavily towards Tampa Bay, who gets taken out of the mix? Vasilevskiy is a Vezina Trophy contender, Kucherov is leading the scoring race and no Atlantic Division defender has more points than Hedman. The heavy Lightning presence does make it difficult to decide the rest of the roster, though. Every other team in the division, excluding the Maple Leafs, who are third in the division, have only one representative.
The Snub: In this projection, the snub would be just about anyone from the Bruins. Tuukka Rask is deserving of the all-star nod. The same goes for David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. The difficulty, though, is finding a way to fit any of those players into an all-star squad that requires representation from each team when four spots are taken by Tampa Bay’s hometown players. And you can’t really argue any of the aforementioned Bruins ahead of any of their Lightning counterparts.
The Controversial Pick: Price is having a tough season in Montreal, but here’s the conundrum: who else do you send from an underperforming Canadiens squad? Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher, Max Pacioretty and Phillip Danault are all options, sure, but who do they replace up front? It’s too bad defenseman Shea Weber will be out past the all-star break. He’d be the obvious choice.
Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals*
Taylor Hall, New Jersey Devils
Josh Bailey, New York Islanders
John Tavares, New York Islanders
Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
Phil Kessel, Pittsburgh Penguins
Jaccob Slavin, Carolina Hurricanes
Seth Jones, Columbus Blue Jackets
John Carlson, Washington Capitals
Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets
Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers
Quite possibly the most difficult division to project, only because half of the league’s top 10 scorers play on Metropolitan clubs. It’s going to be a nightmare for the league to decide who goes and who stays home (or heads for a well-earned vacation) in late January. A pair of familiar faces are missing from this projected roster, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, but neither have been able to catch up to Kessel’s production. There’s always the chance the league will include Crosby given he’s the face of the league, but it should be Kessel’s spot given his performance this season.
The Snub: There’s no way to win when it comes to choosing from the Philadelphia Flyers. You can take Giroux, who has 13 goals and 48 points in 40 contests entering Thursday, or you can take Jakub Voracek, who leading the league with 40 assists. This would all be so much easier if it wasn’t for Bailey having the season of a lifetime and unexpectedly fighting for the league scoring lead. Also a tough break for the Islanders’ Anders Lee, who likely won’t be at the game despite his 50-goal pace.
The Controversial Pick: Slavin might be the most controversial of the bunch, only because he’s not a premier point-getter. That said, it’s difficult not be impressed by his play. He’s sound and solid on the Carolina blueline. And with the Hurricanes in need of a representative — sorry, Jeff Skinner, Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen, there’s no room up front — it’s Slavvin who could get the call. There’s an off chance the nod instead goes to Noah Hanifin, though.
Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers*
Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames
Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks
Jonathan Marchessault, Vegas Golden Knights
William Karlsson, Vegas Golden Knights
Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Arizona Coyotes
Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks
John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks
Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings
If there’s any rookie who is going to be making an appearance at the All-Star Game, it’s Brock Boeser. Winner of the Rookie of the Month award in back-to-back months heading into the new year, Boeser has been remarkable for the Canucks after starting the season watching from the sidelines. In 37 games, he has 21 goals — tied for the most among Pacific Division players — and is staring down a near 50-goal campaign as a rookie. That is mighty impressive. The NHL’s first-year team should also be sending a pair of players, as the Vegas Golden Knights’ standing atop the Western Conference can’t be ignored.
The Snub: Calgary’s Sean Monahan has had an absolutely wonderful season, putting up 19 goals and 36 points in 40 games, while Arizona rookie Clayton Keller, who has 14 goals and 32 points, is one of the only glimmers of hope in the desert this season. Unfortunately, limited roster space and the position of both teams in the playoff race doesn’t really necessitate multiple representatives from either the Flames or Coyotes. It sure would be fun to see Keller and Monahan out on the same ice as Gaudreau, though, so it’s a shame the rosters aren’t that much bigger.
The Controversial Pick: Ekman-Larsson over Keller or even defenseman Alex Goligoski won’t sit too well given how much the Coyotes star struggled to start the season, but the fact of the matter is he’s one of the more offensively gifted rearguards in the league. Frankly, no one from Arizona has really earned their way onto the club aside from Keller, but the lack of spots, as noted, makes it tough to find a way to put Keller in, especially with Vegas earning at least a pair of entrants with their performance thus far.
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars
Brayden Schenn, St. Louis Blues
Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues
Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets
P.K. Subban, Nashville Predators*
John Klingberg, Dallas Stars
Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild
Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators
Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets
A seven-team division should make selecting the 11-player roster that much easier, right? One less team to worry about! Well, that’s not quite the case, especially when it’s arguably the best division in the league and one of the most hotly contested year in and year out. Four teams in the Central — the Stars, Blues, Predators and Jets — have two players on the all-star squad, while the other three are left with a single entry. If there’s potential for some controversy in any division, though, it’s the Central.
The Snub: Take your pick. The division’s top goal scorer, Stars sniper Tyler Seguin, is left off of this projection because, well, how do you shoehorn him into that group of forwards? The same goes for the Jets’ Patrik Laine, who is on his way to becoming one of the league’s next great marksmen, and with two of Winnipeg’s players already on the club, though, it’s tough to add a third. And what about Tyson Barrie? In most cases, leaving a player from the division’s last-place club wouldn’t be called a snub, but the Avalanche blueliner has been exceptional. It also seems wrong not to include Corey Crawford given the season he’s had, but another stint on the injured reserve should see his spot passed along.
The Controversial Pick: Josi is having a solid season offensively and defensively, but is he performing at a higher level than the Blues’ Alex Pietrangelo? Is he playing better than the Wild’s Ryan Suter? We know he hasn’t put up numbers to match Barrie. Yet, he should earn his spot because the Predators are right there with the best in the Western Conference and the defending conference champions. If Filip Forsberg was healthy, Staal would likely be out in favor of Suter with Forsberg slotting into the forward group, but the injury to the Predators’ sniper makes it so that Josi gets Nashville’s second spot.
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