Last season, Nazem Kadri was fourth in the NHL in scoring but was not one of the original players selected to the All-Star game.
Nathan MacKinnon, who was chosen, had some pointed comments.
“I don’t think every team should send a guy. I think it’s a silly rule that we have. It’s an All-Star game, not a participation game… I look back when I went when we came last. I went, and I had a poor season. I knew I shouldn’t have been there. A lot of guys should have been there over me.”
The argument from the league is that every team needs representation in order to grow the game. But I would argue if the system is so broken that the people participating in it don’t even care because they know it’s so bad, you have a serious problem. If they don’t care, why should anyone?
A legitimate format won’t make them hit and play real hockey in an All-Star game, but caring about making it in general has a positive snowball effect.
There should be pride in being an All-Star. It should be a noteworthy achievement. When high-profile players retire and there is a ceremony at their rink, one of the first things the announcer in the arena says is how many All-Star teams they made. It seemingly matters at the end of the career but the system during the career is simply broken.
Fortunately, in this space we don’t have to follow the NHL’s format. So let’s make our own rosters (and what they should be). Two teams, one from the Eastern Conference and one from the Western Conference, and full, proper teams — 12 forwards and six defensemen. Because it’s an All-Star game we’ll make one small concession and have three goalies per team. One per period.
So let’s make this easy and get the no-brainers out of the way.
Eastern Conference (6 forwards, 2 defensemen, two goalies):
Nikita Kucherov - F
David Pastrnak - F
Tage Thompson - F
Jack Hughes - F
Matthew Tkachuk - F
Alex Ovechkin - F
Rasmus Dahlin - D
Adam Fox - D
Linus Ullmark - G
Igor Shesterkin - G
Western Conference (5 forwards, 3 defensemen, 1 goalie)
Connor McDavid - F
Leon Draisaitl - F
Jason Robertson - F
Bo Horvat - F
Mikko Rantanen - F
Erik Karlsson - D
Josh Morrissey - D
Cale Makar - D
There’s not much to say for this part as these picks are self-explanatory. All these players are having monster seasons and it’s pretty much the leaderboard for top scorers and top netminders.
Now we start getting into some slight debates but realistically all of these guys are All-Stars too.
Eastern Conference (5 forwards, 2 defensemen):
Mitch Marner - F
Auston Matthews - F
William Nylander - F
Sidney Crosby - F
Artemi Panarin - F
Noah Dobson - D
Dougie Hamilton - D
The Leafs' top trio lands here and while the attention the team gets probably leads to more criticism than deserved, they all should be here. Marner had the longest point streak of the season and does a bit of everything, Matthews isn’t having the 60-goal season from a year ago so far, but he is a two-way force still scoring at a 90+ point pace. Nylander has been excellent alongside Matthews and is in line for a career season.
Crosby is leading the league in even-strength points, again a monster at 5-on-5. Panarin is one of the best playmakers in the game along the wing and ranks sixth in the league in assists. Dobson’s name might surprise some here but it shouldn’t — he is tied for second among NHL defensemen in goals and is turning into a star before our eyes. Meanwhile, Hamilton has been a two-way force for the Devils, and is sixth among all blueliners in points.
Western Conference (5 forwards, 1 defenseman, 1 goalie):
Kirill Kaprizov - F
Elias Pettersson - F
Roope Hintz - F
Kyle Connor - F
Timo Meier - F
Miro Heiskanen - D
Logan Thompson - G
In the West, Kaprizov lost his centre and is still 13th in league scoring; he has been a force as the Wild worked through a slow start to the season. Pettersson is having a monster season on a team stuck in turmoil but he is top 15 in league scoring and is far from the problem. Hintz centres one of the best lines in the league and his speed really makes everything work. The Jets have had a great start to the season and Connor has been a true game-breaker for them, tied for the team lead in scoring with Morrissey. Meier is turning into one of the most dangerous goal scorers in the league, as he’s in the top 10 in goals scored so far.
Heiskanen is one of hockey's best two-way defensemen and is top five among all rearguards in minutes played. Thompson has been just what Vegas needed in net and the team has responded accordingly, leading its division.
That brings us to the final battles.
Eastern Conference (1 forward, 2 defensemen, 1 goalie)
The Carolina Hurricanes are once again atop the Metropolitan Division and Necas has been a breakout force to help them get there. He had 14 goals and 40 points in 78 games last season. He has 17 goals and 38 points in 40 games this season to lead the Canes in scoring. He is just 19 seconds behind Sebastian Aho in time on ice per game to lead all Canes forwards and he even chips in on the penalty kill.
The Bruins were supposed to have a slow start due to injuries but nobody told Hampus Lindholm, who got off to a massive start with 18 points in his first 20 games and was a two-way force along the way. Hronek has quietly had a massive breakout season and is someone we’ve profiled before. He has earned a spot on this blue line.
Sorokin is showing he’s one of the best goalies in the league and is third among starters in save percentage on a team that relies on him heavily. Tristan Jarry has been very good too but the East goalies are stacked. Andrei Vasilevskiy remains the goalie I’d want in a one-game winner takes all but he’s just outside here.
Western Conference (2 forwards, 2 defensemen, 1 goalie)
In the West you can argue for a guy like MacKinnon — he’s obviously above an All-Star caliber player, but he’s only played 26 games. Vegas has a number of worthy candidates so I picked Stephenson and Stone, who have been phenomenal together. They have outscored opponents 32-20 at 5-on-5 and are one of the most dangerous penalty killing duos in the league. Like MacKinnon, Jack Eichel is here if he doesn't get hurt. Pierre Luc-Dubois has been very good and was a tough omission. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is having a strong season but I think we know who is driving that production. If anything I thought about Zach Hyman more.
Josi is another we’ve talked about previously in that he’s had a good season but expectations are so high given his play last year. He’s still an All-Star though. Nobody is even close to the 1,080:56 minutes Doughty has played as of this writing. Quinn Hughes and Rasmus Andersson would understandably be upset not to make it here.
Oettinger is proving last season was no fluke — there are only three full-time starters with a higher save percentage.
That leaves my final selections as follows. All in all, there are 10 teams not represented here: Philadelphia, Ottawa, Columbus, Montreal, St. Louis, Arizona, Calgary, Chicago, Anaheim and Seattle.
Pastrnak - Thompson - Kucherov
Tkachuk - Hughes - Ovechkin
Nylander - Matthews - Marner
Necas - Crosby - Panarin
Dahlin - Fox
Lindholm - Hamilton
Hronek - Dobson
Draisaitl - McDavid - Kaprizov
Rantanen - Pettersson - Meier
Robertson - Hintz - Connor
Stephenson - Horvat - Stone
Morrissey - Karlsson
Heiskanen - Makar
Josi - Doughty
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