With an eye on the upcoming 2018 Olympics – which the NHL isn’t participating in because, well, money – we decided to take a nationalistic look at the league’s best players this season.
In that patriotic spirit, here are the NHL all-star teams, by country, for the nine nations that qualify. In order to qualify, a country had to have at least three forwards, two defensemen and one goaltender who have played in the NHL this season. For countries such as Canada and the U.S., this wasn’t an issue. For countries such as Germany, Slovakia and Switzerland, it meant almost everyone is an all-star. And for countries such as Denmark (six forwards and one goalie, but no defensemen) and France (two forwards and two defensemen), it meant they’re omitted altogether. C’est la vie.
(Note: All-star teams are ranked according to the country’s total number of players who have appeared in the NHL this season, as of Dec. 9.)
CANADA (385 NHL players)
F – Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay
F – Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg
F – Brayden Schenn, St. Louis
D – Drew Doughty, Los Angeles
D – Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis
G – Corey Crawford, Chicago
Canada, as you may have heard, has some pretty good hockey players, including about a dozen forwards who deserve all-star acknowledgement. But there’s only three spots up front, and they go to streaking Steven Stamkos, all-arounder Mark Scheifele and breakout Brayden Schenn. (You can replace Schenn with linemate Jaden Schwartz if you want.) Edmonton’s Connor McDavid (naturally), the Islanders’ John Tavares and Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon were also strongly considered. On defense, Drew Doughty and Alex Pietrangelo were the clear choices, with Toronto’s Morgan Rielly serving notice and Nashville’s P.K. Subban also in the running. Corey Crawford doesn’t have the best record, but he has the second-best save percentage among starting goalies, so he gets the nod over Washington’s Braden Holtby, San Jose’s Martin Jones and St. Louis’ Jake Allen.
UNITED STATES (220 NHL players)
F – Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary
F – Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg
F – Phil Kessel, Pittsburgh
D – John Carlson, Washington
D – Nick Leddy, NY Islanders
G – Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles
Johnny Gaudreau, Blake Wheeler and Phil Kessel have piled up too many points to be ignored. The Islanders’ Anders Lee, who leads all U.S.-born players in goals (and ranks top five in the league), Florida’s Vincent Trocheck, Chicago’s Patrick Kane and Toronto’s Auston Matthews are next in line. On defense, John Carlson is playing himself into a huge UFA deal (or a huge extension with the Caps), while Nick Leddy is quietly vying for the NHL’s blueline scoring lead. Jonathan Quick ahead of Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck in net, but it’s a coin flip.
SWEDEN (83 NHL players)
F – Filip Forsberg, Nashville
F – William Karlsson, Vegas
F – Mika Zibanejad, NY Rangers
D – John Klingberg, Dallas
D – Mattias Ekholm, Nashville
G – Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers
Filip Forsberg continues his ascension into the league’s elite. William Karlsson has already had a career season after getting a chance as a top-liner in Vegas, and Mika Zibanejad beats out Nicklas Backstrom, Patric Hornqvist and Viktor Arvidsson for Sweden’s final forward spot. Yes, it’s hard to believe that neither Erik Karlsson nor Victor Hedman make the grade on the blueline. But John Klingberg, who leads all NHL defensemen in points, and Mattias Ekholm, who has added a healthy dose of offense to his sandpaper style, couldn’t be denied. Henrik Lundqvist started slowly but has rounded into form, with Vancouver’s two-Swede tandem of Jacob Markstrom and Anders Nilsson coming the closest to ending The King’s reign.
FINLAND (37 NHL players)
F – Aleksander Barkov, Florida
F – Patrik Laine, Winnipeg
F – Teuvo Teravainen, Carolina
D – Olli Maatta, Pittsburgh
D – Esa Lindell, Dallas
G – Pekka Rinne, Nashville
At 22-plus minutes per game, Aleksander Barkov leads all NHL forwards in ice time, and he leads all Finnish NHL players in points as well as overall impact. Patrik Laine, as anticipated, sits among the NHL’s goal leaders. And Teuvo Teravainen has found his comfort zone in Carolina – on a line with countryman Sebastian Aho – to beat out Colorado’s Mikko Rantanen for the third forward spot. Olli Maatta and Stars sophomore Esa Lindell, who’s getting close to 22 minutes per game, man the blueline, beating out Columbus kid Markus Nutivaara as well as Buffalo workhorse Rasmus Ristolainen and Anaheim’s Sami Vatanen, both of whom have missed time due to injuries. Finland’s goalie factory has slowed production, with Pekka Rinne easily outshining the country’s two other starting NHL goalies, Boston’s Tuukka Rask and Arizona’s Antti Raanta.
CZECH REPUBLIC (34 NHL players)
F – David Pastrnak, Boston
F – Jakub Voracek, Philadelphia
F – Ondrej Palat, Tampa Bay
D – Jan Rutta, Chicago
D – Michal Kempny, Chicago
G – Michal Neuvirth, Philadelphia
David Pastrnak ranks among the top 10 NHLers in goals scored since the start of last season, and he’s only 21. Jakub Voracek ranks among the top 10 NHLers in points this season, even with his Flyers coming off a 10-game losing skid. And Ondrej Palat ranks among the top 10 NHLers from a Selke Trophy perspective, despite flying under the radar in Tampa Bay. Dallas center Radek Faksa also deserves a stick tap for his performance so far this season. On defense, 27-year-old Jan Rutta is too old to be considered a rookie, but he has stepped up on Chicago’s blueline in his first NHL season. And we’ll go with another Hawks defender, Michal Kempny, over Tampa Bay’s Andrej Sustr, though Kempny hasn’t played much recently and Sustr is trending up. In goal, it’s Michal Neuvirth over Rangers backup Ondrej Pavelec and Detroit’s No. 2 Petr Mrazek.
RUSSIA (34 NHL players)
F – Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay
F – Alex Ovechkin, Washington
F – Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis
D – Ivan Provorov, Philadelphia
D – Nikita Zaitsev, Toronto
G – Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay
Nikita Kucherov, vying for the league’s scoring lead, and Alex Ovechkin, the league’s leading goal-scorer, are no-brainers. The tough decision was picking the third forward, with Vladimir Tarasenko by a nose over Ovechkin’s teammate in Washington, Evgeny Kuznetsov. It was a similar situation on the blueline: Ivan Provorov was an easy selection, while Nikita Zaitsev was chosen over flashy teenage rookie Mikhail Sergachev, who’s playing nearly nine minutes less per game than Zaitsev (14:32 per game vs. 23:02) and against easier competition. Russia’s crease features two Vezina Trophy candidates in up-and-coming Andrei Vasilevskiy and Columbus’ two-time winner Sergei Bobrovsky.
SWITZERLAND (14 NHL players)
F – Nico Hischier, New Jersey
F – Sven Baertschi, Vancouver
F – Kevin Fiala, Nashville
D – Roman Josi, Nashville
D – Luca Sbisa, Vegas
G – Reto Berra, Anaheim
Rookie phenom Nico Hischier and steady star Roman Josi head up the Swiss watch. Joining Hischier at forward are Sven Baertschi and Kevin Fiala, who has made a remarkable recovery from a horrific broken leg sustained after crashing into the end boards in the playoffs last year. Nino Niederreiter, Minneosta’s rambunctious scoring winger, is the odd man out up front. Luca Sbisa is playing 20 minutes a night for Vegas to partner with Josi on the blueline. Reto Berra, the NHL’s lone Swiss goalie this season, has gotten into four games as the Ducks’ third-stringer.
SLOVAKIA (9 NHL players)
F – Tomas Tatar, Detroit
F – Richard Panik, Chicago
F – Marian Gaborik, Los Angeles
D – Zdeno Chara, Boston
D – Christian Jaros, Ottawa
G – Jaroslav Halak, NY Islanders
Tomas Tatar leads Slovakia’s five-man NHL forward contingent. Richard Panik, who scored in each of his first three games but has only two goals in his past 26 outings, and Marian Gaborik, who didn’t suit up until late November but hit the ground running with four goals in eight games, round it out up front. Winnipeg’s Marko Dano (six games) and Boston’s Peter Cehlarik (five games), are the omitted forwards. On the blueline, there’s Zdeno Chara – of course – as well as Christian Jaros, who got into two games with Ottawa in early October before being sent to the AHL. Jaroslav Halak gets the nod in net over Tampa Bay backup Peter Budaj.
GERMANY (7 NHL players)
F – Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton
F – Tobias Rieder, Arizona
F – Tom Kuhnhackl, Pittsburgh
D – Dennis Seidenberg, NY Islanders
D – Korbinian Holzer, Anaheim
G – Thomas Greiss, NY Islanders
It was pretty easy to pick this all-star team, considering Germany has only three forwards, two defensemen and two goalies who have played in the NHL this season. Leon Draisaitl has been limited by injury on a struggling Oilers squad, but he still has more goals (eight) and points (20) than the rest of Germany’s NHL ensemble combined. Washington backup goalie Philipp Grubauer is the lone German NHLer who was left out.