The chances of another John Scott-esque all-star fan vote grabbing hold of the hockey community are incredibly slim largely due to new rules in place to limit the options for write-in candidates. That said, the NHL’s methods of putting four players from each team in each division as the default options for the captaincy selections has left a few fanbases sore.
On the face, the system makes sense, and it’s makes sense why the NHL has chosen the players they have. For instance, the Chicago Blackhawks’ representatives that are up for easy selection are Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Corey Crawford. Those four are legitimate faces of the franchise and the core of the three-time Stanley Cup champions, but it’s also hard to understand how Toews or Keith really finds their place on that list this season ahead of, say, Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov or Marian Hossa, who rank second, third and fourth in scoring, respectively.
But the Blackhawks’ list of non-write-in all-star candidates isn’t really all that bad, all things considered. Here are five players who have been placed on the write-in list that should have been front-and-center in the voting:
Alex Galchenyuk, Montreal Canadiens
We can get the inclusion of Shea Weber and Carey Price in the fan voting, and it’s even understandable to put Max Pacioretty, the Canadiens’ captain, as a third option. But for as much fun as Brendan Gallagher is to watch, how can he be the fourth option ahead of Galchenyuk?
Through 23 games, Galchenyuk has been absolutely lights out for Montreal. His nine goals and 22 points make him the highest scoring player left as a write-in candidate, and Galchenyuk has the offensive creativity that an event like the All-Star Game is begging for. It would be all that much better, too, if there was some way to get Alexander Radulov to come along to the All-Star Game.
These write-in candidates aren’t numbered. If they were, though, Galchenyuk is the clearcut No. 1 choice.
David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins
It finally feels like Pastrnak is en route to having that season that makes him look like the top-six scorer the Bruins had believed him to be. He started the season off with a three-game, four-goal scoring streak, had a four-game goal streak after coming back from a two-game suspension and another three-game goal streak following a returning from injury. The only player with a better goals per game rate is Sidney Crosby, and Pastrnak is third in the NHL with 13 tallies in 19 games.
Beyond that, Pastrnak’s skating ability would be perfect for the 3-on-3 tournament and he’d be tremendously fun to watch in the competition. Plus, as a first-timer, he’d likely bring some energy to the game.
Kevin Shattenkirk, St. Louis Blues
It makes sense that Alex Pietrangelo has been included as part of the Blues’ foursome for the voting, and it’s impossible to argue with Alexander Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko being there, too. The Blues included a second defenseman, though, and for some reason it was Jay Bouwmeester and not Shattenkirk.
Let’s run this down for a second. Bouwmeester has one goal and four points in 24 games this season and is averaging close to 23 minutes per game. Shattenkirk, on the other hand, has six goals and 19 points in roughly 20 minutes per outing. Only three defensemen have more goals, only three have more assists and Brent Burns is the only rearguard with more points than Shattenkirk.
Sure, rumors have swirled about a possible trade and that could complicate things, but Shattenkirk is absolutely one of the league’s best defensemen right now and deserving of a trip to the All-Star Game.
Cam Atkinson, Columbus Blue Jackets
It almost goes without saying that the Metropolitan Division captain will be one of the many stars from the group, be it Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, John Tavares or Taylor Hall. Despite that, Atkinson deserves some credit for the season he’s putting together with a Blue Jackets team that is sneaking up the division.
Atkinson doesn’t get a lot of press, but he’s definitely earned his place as a top-six winger in the league. Coming into this year, Atkinson’s previous career highs were 27 goals and 53 points, both coming in 2015-16. But the 30-goal, 78-point pace he’s on through the early part of this campaign should have everyone — including fan voters — recognizing how well Atkinson has played. Atkinson’s 21 points make him the second-highest scorer listed as a write-in option, tied with Anisimov, Panarin and Winnipeg’s Nikolaj Ehlers.
Mitch Marner or Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs
Including both of the high-scoring Maple Leafs rookies technically makes this a six-player list, but who’s counting?
The four Maple Leafs currently eligible to be voted into the game are Tyler Bozak, Nazem Kadri, James van Riemsdyk and Morgan Rielly. Tough to really see how Bozak or Kadri should outrank Marner or Matthews. And even if you’re thinking it might make a lick of sense given that both Marner and Matthews are rookies, think again, because Patrik Laine is listed as one of the top-four options for the Winnipeg Jets.
The credentials for Marner and Matthews are clear. Marner has seven goals and 19 points to tie for the team lead, Matthews has 10 goals and 18 points for third in team scoring and they rank third and first, respectively, in average ice time for the Maple Leafs among forwards. Even if one or the other isn’t written in, one or both deserve to be representing Toronto in Los Angeles come late-January.
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