NHL releases All-Star Game rosters

All-Star Game

The NHL announced its selections for the 2018 Honda NHL All-Star Game, which will be held in Tampa Bay Jan. 26-28.

Forty players will join Connor McDavid, P.K. Subban, Steven Stamkos and Alex Ovechkin, who will serve as the captains for the Pacific Division, Central Division, Atlantic Division and Metropolitan Division teams, respectively. Each team is comprised of 11 players, including six forwards, three defensemen and one goalie, and there must be at least one representative from every team. Vegas’ Gerard Gallant, Nashville’s Peter Laviolette, Tampa Bay’s Jon Cooper and Washington’s Barry Trotz will serve as the head coaches for the Pacific, Central, Atlantic and Metropolitan Division teams, respectively.

There were many surprises, omissions and snubs, though most players were solid picks. Here’s an overview of the selections.

Pacific Division

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In addition to McDavid, the forwards representing the Pacific include Brock Boeser, Johnny Gaudreau, Anze Kopitar, James Neal and Rickard Rakell. Brent Burns, Drew Doughty and Oliver Ekman-Larsson will patrol the blue line, and Marc-Andre Fleury and Jonathan Quick will tend twine.

McDavid, who led all players in the fan vote, will captain the Pacific Division squad for the second year in a row. Winner of last year’s Hart Memorial Trophy, Ted Lindsay Award and Art Ross Trophy, McDavid is 10th in the league and second in the Pacific Division in points with 48 in 44 games this season, and he sits just four points away from reaching 200 career points.

Boeser, the early favorite to win the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year, has 22 goals and 40 points in 40 games for the Vancouver Canucks. He was the only rookie named to the All-Star Game, though Clayton Keller of the Arizona Coyotes should be sharing that honor. Keller, who started the year with eight goals and 13 points in his first 12 games and now has 14 goals and 32 points, was held off the roster in favor of teammate Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who is not having a strong season. Ekman-Larsson has six goals and 19 points in 43 games and is a minus-34. However, due to the restrictions imposed by the format of the All-Star Game, Keller was snubbed.

All-Star Game

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But the biggest snubs in the Pacific Division were Jonathan Marchessault and William Karlsson of the Vegas Golden Knights, who failed to make the list over Neal. Marchessault, who was recently rewarded with a six-year, $30 million extension, has 16 goals and 40 points in 38 games. Karlsson leads the Knights with 22 goals, good for fifth in the entire NHL, and has 36 points in 41 games.

Neal, on the other hand, is fifth on the Knights in points with 29, though he is second on the team in goals with 18 (just two more than Marchessault). That being said, Neal hasn’t been a big factor for the Knights since the early part of the season, scoring just 10 points since Dec. 1. Many believed one of Marchessault/Karlsson might be snubbed since there were only five available forward slots to begin with, but it’s fair to say that no one expected Neal to take one of those five spots. There are 11 forwards in the Pacific Division with more points than Neal, including four of Neal’s teammates, that were not named to the All-Star Game.

Another surprise on the list was Fleury. His statistics are impressive, as he leads the league in save percentage (.945) and goals-against average (1.73) among goalies who have started at least four games, but he has started just 12 games and is one of four goalies to earn a win for the Knights this year.

There were some sound selections, however.

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Kopitar is having a huge bounce-back season and will be in contention for the Selke Trophy yet again with some of the best defensive play in the league as well as 17 goals and 44 points in 42 games. His 44 points are third in the division. Teammates Doughty and especially Quick are not surprising choices, either. Doughty is one of the best two-way defensemen in the game, and Quick has been impressive this year with 19 wins, a .926 save percentage and a 2.31 goals-against average.

Gaudreau is another no-brainer, as he leads the division with 49 points in 42 games, though Flames center Sean Monahan (20-19–39) must have been in the running. While Burns got off to a slow start, he remains one of the most effective offensive defensemen in the league and has been on a tear of late, picking up 19 points in his last 17 games.

Rakell is having a strong year and has been especially productive in recent games. Anaheim has struggled with extensive injuries for most of the year, but Rakell leads the Ducks in goals (15) and points (31).

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That being said, goaltender John Gibson could have been the Ducks’ representative. While his numbers aren’t as impressive as Fleury’s, he has played a much more significant role for his team and often far outplays his stats. He kept the Ducks in the game most nights and is tied for fourth in the division with 13 wins.

It will be the first All-Star appearance for Boeser and Rakell, the second for McDavid and Ekman-Larsson and third for Neal, Fleury and Quick. Gaudreau, Kopitar and Doughty will make their fourth appearances, while Burns will make his fifth.

Here is the complete roster for the Pacific Division All-Star team:

Pacific Division Roster

Forwards
Brock Boeser, Vancouver
Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary
Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles
Connor McDavid, Edmonton (Captain)
James Neal, Vegas
Rickard Rakell, Anaheim
Defensemen
Brent Burns, San Jose
Drew Doughty, Los Angeles
Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Arizona
Goalies
Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas
Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles
 
 

Central Division

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The Central Division offers the most straightforward of the four rosters, and that’s partly because the Central is comprised of just seven teams. As such, there were only one or two surprises, with the rest of the choices being more than appropriate. It’s important to note, however, that there are several key injuries to players that may otherwise be on the team. For example, goaltender Corey Crawford may have inched out one of the two goalies that made the team, and Jets center Mark Scheifele would have been on the team without a doubt.

That being said, many of these selections make sense and are well-deserved.

The two most obvious examples are forwards Nathan MacKinnon and Blake Wheeler of the Colorado Avalanche and Winnipeg Jets, respectively. Both forwards are having tremendous seasons and are tied with Stamkos and Claude Giroux for second in the league in points with 52.

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Similarly, Brayden Schenn has had a breakout campaign with the St. Louis Blues, scoring 17 goals and 44 points through 46 games. His production has slowed in recent games since the injury to Jaden Schwartz, but Schenn has been one of the biggest surprises of the 2017-2018 season and rightfully will play in his first NHL All-Star Game later this month.

But teammate Vladimir Tarasenko will not be joining him.

Tarasenko has 19 goals and 44 points and is tied with Schenn for fourth overall in scoring in the division but did not make the team. It likely came down either to Schenn vs. Tarasenko or Tarasenko vs. Tyler Seguin, though Schenn has played a bigger role for the Blues than Tarasenko has. The NHL elected to go with Seguin, who has 21 goals and 40 points in 43 games. Seguin has played in three fewer games than Tarasenko but has a slightly lower points-per-game average. Joining Seguin will be Dallas defenseman John Klingberg, who is having an outstanding year. Klingberg leads all defensemen in points with 39, and his 0.91 points-per-game average is the highest among all NHL defensemen.

Another potential omission from this roster is forward Mikko Rantanen, who skates with MacKinnon on Colorado’s top line. Rantanen has 41 points in 41 games and, arguably, could have been named over both Tarasenko and Seguin. Though it’s not as blatant in the Western Conference, there are several Eastern Conference All-Star roster selections that suggest that in some cases the NHL may have decided to go with the “star” names rather than basing the decisions solely on statistics and merit. This could have played a role in Seguin’s inclusion over Rantanen, though Seguin certainly is deserving of the spot. All four of the other healthy players in the Central Division scoring at a point-per-game basis (or higher) were named to the All-Star Game, though.

As for Seguin making it over Tarasenko, perhaps the league decided to spread the love. Since the Blues already had defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who was going to make the team no matter what, maybe the league elected to have two representatives from both teams rather than three from one and one from the other. But that shouldn’t take away from either Klingberg or Pietrangelo, who both more than deserve to make their first All-Star Game appearances. Pietrangelo was the best all-around defenseman for most of the first half of the season, and his 30 points rank third overall in the division among defensemen.

All-Star Game

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Also deserving of his first All-Star Game selection is goaltender Connor Hellebuyck of the Winnipeg Jets. Hellebuyck wasn’t even supposed to be the Jets’ starter coming into the season but has had a stellar first half. He leads the division in wins with 23, which is good for third overall in the league, and he has a .923 save percentage and 2.36 goals-against average. His play at home has been exceptionally remarkable, where he has gone 16-1-1 this year.

Pekka Rinne will make his second All-Star Game appearance with 21 wins, a .924 save percentage and 2.43 goals-against average. He will be joined by teammate Subban in his third All-Star Game. While some might argue that Nashville’s Roman Josi has had a better overall year than Subban, the fan vote determined that Subban would be the captain of the team. Klingberg and Pietrangelo would have been automatic either way.

Filling out the roster are forwards Patrick Kane and Eric Staal. Kane is third in the division and 13th in the league in points with 45, and he will be the only representative from the Blackhawks after four players competed in the event last year. Staal will represent the Minnesota Wild as the veteran center makes his fifth All-Star Game appearance. Staal has 19 goals and 37 points in 43 games this season.

Here is the complete roster for the Central Division All-Star team:

Central Division Roster

Forwards
Patrick Kane, Chicago
Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado
Brayden Schenn, St. Louis
Tyler Seguin, Dallas
Eric Staal, Minnesota
Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg
Defensemen
John Klingberg, Dallas
Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis
P.K. Subban, Nashville (Captain)
Goalies
Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg
Pekka Rinne, Nashville
 
 

Atlantic Division

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The Atlantic Division has been dominated by the Tampa Bay Lightning all year, so it should come as no surprise that four out of the 11 Atlantic Division All-Star players are members of the Lightning. Captain Stamkos will be joined by Nikita Kucherov, Andrei Vasilevskiy and Victor Hedman. Kucherov leads the league in scoring with 60 points and is tied for the league lead in goals with 27; he is the obvious choice for the Hart Memorial Trophy as most valuable player through the first half of the year. Vasilevskiy leads all goalies in wins with 27 and has posted a .933 save percentage and 2.10 goals-against average in 36 appearances. Hedman got off to a slow start after a career year last season but leads Atlantic Division defensemen in points with 33, which ranks third overall in the NHL.

That leaves room for four forwards, two defensemen and one goalie who have to represent seven teams. It could be argued that there are several teams in the Atlantic Division that may not deserve to send anyone to the All-Star Game, which is true of som teams in every division in the league. This is not necessarily a knock on individual players, as some teams have had very balanced scoring from throughout their rosters and don’t necessarily have standout performers. However, the format of the weekend dictates that all 31 teams must be represented and there have to be an equal number of players from each division. Fair or unfair, right or wrong, that’s how it is.

That being said, there are still some big surprises in the Atlantic Division, the most glaring of which is Montreal’s Carey Price, who is having the worst season of his career. He is 13-14-2 with a .911 save percentage and 2.89 goals-against average and has given up four-plus goals 11 times this year. He has won each of his last two games but had a .907 save percentage and 2.97 goals-against average, good for seventh worst and fifth worst in the NHL among goalies playing in at least 20 games, prior to his last two starts.

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There’s no denying that Price is an elite goaltender capable of putting up the best numbers in the league. He’s also capable of outplaying every other goalie at the All-Star Game. But his numbers so far this season are not even mediocre. However, with the injury to defenseman Shea Weber and the fact that no one on the Canadiens has more than 23 points, Price will make his sixth All-Star Game appearance.

Detroit is in a similar situation without a true standout performer. However, defenseman Mike Green will make his second appearance as he represents the Red Wings. Green is having a strong season, however. He is fifth among defensemen in the division in points (24), and he is tied for first in power-play points with 12. Two defensemen with more points, including Toronto’s Morgan Rielly and Tampa Bay’s Mikhail Sergachev, did not make the roster. However, there had to be a member of the Red Wings on the team, though many thought that might be center Dylan Larkin (6-28–34). Again, the position requirements likely explain this decision, though Green’s offensive numbers have been solid this year.

The third defenseman on the Atlantic Division roster is Erik Karlsson. Like Hedman, Karlsson got off to a very uncharacteristically slow start to the season. While he has struggled, he’s now tied for sixth among NHL defensemen with 30 points, and he is first among Atlantic Division defensemen with an average of 0.81 points per game. He’s also third among NHL defensemen in time on ice per game (26:21).

The other four players on the Atlantic Division roster are forwards Aleksander Barkov of the Florida Panthers, Jack Eichel of the Buffalo Sabres, Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins and Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs. All four players are names one would expect to be at the All-Star Game, and all four have had good years.

All-Star Game

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Barkov continues to be one of the most underrated forwards in the NHL. He has 14 goals and 40 points in 41 games and excels in all three zones. However, it could have been Jonathan Huberdeau representing the Panthers this year. He is third in the division in points with 43 and fourth in points per game (1.02). Even Vincent Trocheck (17-23–40) deserved serious consideration for his strong two-way play, but it’s hard to complain about Barkov making this team.

Eichel has largely underachieved this season but leads the Sabres in scoring with 17 goals and 39 points through 43 contests. However, he seems to be heating up, as he has racked up 10 goals and 20 points in his last 18 games. Evander Kane has had a strong year with 16 goals and 35 points and has been Buffalo’s most consistent producer this season. But again, it’s difficult to argue with Eichel headed to the All-Star Game.

Marchand is another player that more than deserves to be on this roster. He has 17 goals and 40 points but has played in just 32 games this season, giving him the third-highest points-per-game average in the NHL (1.25) behind just Kucherov and MacKinnon. While linemates David Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron also have been great this year, Marchand has been the most explosive offensively and leads the Bruins in scoring despite missing eight games. Many believed rookie defenseman Charlie McAvoy could be in the running for his excellent play, and that goaltender Tuukka Rask was a possibility. However, it will be Marchand representing Beantown in Tampa.

The final player on the Atlantic Division roster is sophomore superstar Auston Matthews, who has 33 points in 34 games. He has had some injury issues throughout the season but is a consistent producer and a huge part of Toronto’s offense and success.

That being said, Frederik Andersen has had a very strong year for the Maple Leafs and could have been on this team.

All-Star Game

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Andersen’s numbers have slipped recently but he had a stretch earlier in the season where he was virtually unbeatable, and he has come up huge for Toronto on countless occasions this year. He is fourth in the league in wins (22), eighth in save percentage (.922) among goalies who have played at least 20 games, first in saves (1133) and has played more than any other netminder. His 2.65 goals-against average leaves a lot to be desired, but he posted a 1.97 GAA in November and has faced more shots (1229) than any other goalie in the league.

Here is the complete roster for the Atlantic Division All-Star team:

Atlantic Division Roster

Forwards
Aleksander Barkov, Florida
Jack Eichel, Buffalo
Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay
Brad Marchand, Boston
Auston Matthews, Toronto
Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay (Captain)
Defensemen
Mike Green, Detroit
Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay
Erik Karlsson, Ottawa
Goalies
Carey Price, Montreal
Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay
 
 

Metropolitan Division

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The Metropolitan Division has some of the most head-scratching picks of any division, which therefore creates the largest number of outright snubs.

But Ovechkin will serve as captain of the team, and rightfully so. He is tied with Kucherov for the lead league in goals with 27, and Ovechkin has 46 points in 43 games, good for a 1.07 points-per-game scoring rate. He will be joined by teammate Braden Holtby, who will make his third All-Star appearance. While Holtby leads the division in wins with 24, his .917 save percentage and 2.68 goals-against average are not as strong as those of Blue Jackets netminder Sergei Bobrovsky, who has 21 wins along with a .922 save percentage and 2.40 GAA. Plus, Bobrovsky has four shutouts compared to Holtby’s zero. That doesn’t mean that Holtby hasn’t been great this year. In fact, he is a huge reason why the Capitals are in first place in the division, which must have had something to do with this selection.

But what makes the pick especially surprising is the fact that perhaps the biggest omission of all is another Capitals player, defenseman John Carlson. Carlson has the numbers and has had the season to be an automatic selection in this year’s All-Star Game. This is made worse by the fact that one of the strangest picks in the All-Star Game is a defenseman in the Metropolitan Division, which makes the situation all the more baffling.

All-Star Game

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Carlson is second among defensemen in points with 34 and second in assists with 29, though he leads the Metropolitan Division in both categories. Carlson also averages the most ice time per game among Metropolitan Division defensemen (26:17), which is the fourth highest average among all players in the NHL.

But instead of Carlson, the NHL went with Kris Letang, who is tied for 13th in points among defensemen and who has not had a particularly effective season for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Scoring does not paint the whole picture in many cases, especially for defensemen; however, Carlson should be in the running for the Norris Trophy considering the way he has played, while Letang is not producing much offensively and is the number one defenseman for a Penguins team that is surrendering 3.11 goals per game, the eighth-highest average in the league.

Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere also was omitted from the All-Star Game. Gostisbehere is second among defensemen with nine goals and fourth among defensemen in points with 32 in just 39 games. He leads all defensemen in power-play points with 18, which is good for 10th overall among all NHL players.

What makes the Letang choice even more bizarre, though, is that Sidney Crosby will be representing Pittsburgh as well. Crosby has 43 points in 44 games but made it over other top players in the division who are having much better seasons. It’s safe to assume that Crosby probably was chosen solely because he is Sidney Crosby. In fact, Crosby is on pace for the worst production rate of his entire career. There are two Metropolitan Division players with more points, four players with better point-per-game scoring rates and five players with more goals than Crosby that did not make the All-Star Game, and several of those players are on the Penguins. This choice exemplifies more than any other how the NHL made selections based on star status rather than statistics and merit.

Is Crosby a superstar? Yes. Is he capable of scoring 60-plus points in the second half of the season? Absolutely. But does he deserve to be in the All-Star Game? No.

If it was about having multiple representatives from the back-to-back Stanley Cup-winning Penguins at the All-Star Game, Phil Kessel was the easy choice. He has 18 goals and 47 points in 44 games, and he leads the Penguins in goals, assists (29) and points. He even leads the entire NHL in power-play points with 27, and he has been Pittsburgh’s most consistent player all year. Even Evgeni Malkin has been more consistent than Crosby this season with 42 points in 40 games. On top of everything, Crosby is notorious for backing out of the All-Star Game, which makes the pick all the more confusing.

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Two other players who are having great years are Philadelphia forwards Jake Voracek and Sean Couturier. Voracek leads the league in assists with 43 and is sixth overall in points with 51. Couturier is having a career season with 23 goals, which ranks fourth overall in the NHL, and he has 42 points in 42 games. Like Kessel, both Voracek and Couturier are having significantly better seasons than Crosby.

It’s understandable that the NHL wants Crosby to be part of the All-Star Game. It’s also understandable that building these rosters is not an easy task. In fact, it’s very difficult to sit down and make these decisions knowing that worthy players will be left out of the mix. But choosing Crosby over Kessel illustrates that it’s not about the numbers and it’s not about performance, especially considering Kessel is having such a great year for Pittsburgh.

However, there are other players on the roster that truly belong, and it’s refreshing to see that the NHL included one player in particular: Josh Bailey.

All-Star Game

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Bailey is one of those names that is not well-known around the league, but he is having a remarkable year, as is teammate and linemate John Tavares, who will make his fifth All-Star Game appearance. Tavares’ 51 points puts him in a tie with Voracek for sixth overall in NHL scoring, while Bailey comes in with 50, good for eighth overall in the league. The third member of the Islanders’ top line, Anders Lee, is third in the NHL with 25 goals and could have made this team as well.

The player that will represent the Philadelphia Flyers is Claude Giroux, and he is another player that is more than deserving of the honor. He is tied with Stamkos, MacKinnon and Wheeler for second overall in points with 52, though he and MacKinnon have games in hand, and is tied for second in assists with 38. Giroux has had an incredible year. He is six points shy of matching last year’s point total for the whole season and is on pace for his best season in the NHL despite getting moved to a new position in training camp.

Taylor Hall also is having an All-Star season so far. The Devils winger has 15 goals and 42 points in 39 games and has led a young team to its best start in franchise history.

All-Star Game

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Defensemen Seth Jones and Noah Hanifin and goaltender Henrik Lundqvist round out the rest of the Metropolitan Division roster. Even though Carlson deserves to be on this team and Gostisbehere is having a season worthy of All-Star recognition, Jones and Hanifin are having strong seasons.

Jones has seven goals and 28 points in 44 games; he is tied for eighth in goals and 11th in points among NHL defensemen and leads the Blue Jackets in ice time, averaging 24:38 per game. Hanifin, who has seven goals and 21 points in his third NHL season, will make his first All-Star Game appearance. While forward Sebastian Aho (14-20–34) may be the most deserving member of the Canes, the strength of forwards in the Metropolitan made it difficult to justify his inclusion, as his 34 points is tied for 17th in the division. However, Hanifin will inject some new blood in the All-Star Game, as defenseman Justin Faulk has represented Carolina in each of the last three years.

Lundqvist, who has been the Rangers’ best player all year, will make his fourth All-Star Game appearance. He is third in the division in wins with 19 and has a .924 save percentage and 2.52 goals-against average. His .924 save percentage is first in the division and tied for fourth in the NHL among goalies who have made at least 20 starts, and his 2.52 GAA is ninth best among goalies who have made at least 20 starts.

Here is the complete roster for the Metropolitan Division All-Star team:

Metropolitan Division Roster

Forwards
Josh Bailey, New York Islanders
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh
Claude Giroux, Philadelphia
Taylor Hall, New Jersey
Alex Ovechkin, Washington (Captain)
John Tavares, New York Islanders
Defensemen
Noah Hanifin, Carolina
Seth Jones, Columbus
Kris Letang, Pittsburgh
Goalies
Braden Holtby, Washington
Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers
 
 

Featured Image Credits: Schenn (Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports); Gaudreau (Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports); Giroux (Getty Images); Kucherov (Scott Audette-Getty Images); MacKinnon (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports); Barkov (Getty Images); Wheeler (Getty Images); Boeser (Darryl Dyck-The Canadian Press)