2016-2017 All-Star Preview

With the 2017 Honda NHL All-star weekend beginning on Friday, a preview article is definitely in order. Below is a breakdown of each team, each day of events and my predictions. All captains were voted in by the fans, while the other 40 players were named by the NHL.

Friday: NHL100- The NHL will reveal the top 100 players in NHL history. This event will occur at 6:30 pm PT/ 9:30 pm ET on Friday. The evening will also feature performances from John Legend and Robin Thicke. Fans can watch on a number of networks including ESPN and Sportsnet. More info can be found here: https://www.nhl.com/kings/news/john-legend-and-robin-thicke-join-nhl100/c-285871992

Saturday: The fan-favorite All-Star Skills session takes place on Saturday at 7pm ET/ 4pm PT. The division that earns the most points wins the ability to choose their opponent and the start time of their game on Sunday. The players will compete in 6 events: The Gatorade NHL Skills Challenge Relay, Honda NHL Four Line Challenge, DraftKings NHL Accuracy Shooting, Bridgestone NHL Fastest Skater, Oscar Mayer NHL Hardest Shot and Discover NHL Shootout. The newest event, the Honda NHL Four Line Challenge, which replaces the Breakaway Challenge ( 😦 ), places the players at four different places on the ice and has them pick corners of the net from as far away as the far goal line. There will still be a shootout event, however this one follows the rules set by the NHL in the regular season and is more about scoring goals than fun props or cool moves. The competitors have been released and you can find them here: https://www.nhl.com/news/2017-nhl-skills-competition-list/c-286186836. Also occurring on Saturday is the Celebrity Shootout which will be played at 2:15 pm PT. The game includes NHL legends and celebrities from movies, TV and music. The event benefits Echoes of Hope, a charity started by former NHLer Luc Robitaille and will be in memory of Alan Thicke.

Sunday: The real competition starts at 12:30 PT on Sunday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The matchups have not yet been set, as the winner of Saturday’s competition has a hand in the makeup of Sunday’s games. The teams will compete in the ‘semi-final’ on Sunday with the two winners going head-to-head for the finals. Each game is played 3-on-3 with two 10 minute halves. Last year, the Pacific Division defeated the Atlantic Division in the finals 1-0.

Metro Division: Captain: Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins), Coach: John Tortorella (Columbus Blue Jackets)* (Tortorella will miss the weekend, a replacement has not yet been named) 

Forwards: 

  • Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins)- Current NHL leading goalscorer
  • Taylor Hall (New Jersey Devils)- Leads Devils in points
  • Evgeni Malkin* (Pittsburgh Penguins)- Tied with Crosby for Penguins points leader (*Malkin is injured and will miss the All-Star Game. He is replaced by Cam Atkinson)
  • Alexander Ovechkin (Washington Capitals)- Leads Capitals in goals
  • Wayne Simmonds (Philadelphia Flyers)- 3rd in points on the Flyers
  • John Tavares (New York Islanders)- Leads Islanders in goals and points

Rating: 9/10

Defensemen: 

  • Justin Faulk (Carolina Hurricanes)- Leads Carolina defense in points
  • Seth Jones (Columbus Blue Jackets)- Tied in Columbus for most goals by defensemen
  • Ryan McDonagh (New York Rangers)- Leads Rangers defense in points

Rating: 6/10

Goaltenders:

  • Sergei Bobrovsky (Columbus Blue Jackets)- Leads NHL in wins
  • Braeden Holtby (Washington Capitals)- Leads NHL in shutouts

Rating: 9/10

Analysis: 

With strong forwards, including arguably two of the best in the world, the Metro division should lead in scoring. The three-on-three format will allow Ovechkin and Crosby to show their skills. The only detriment to this team will be a weaker defensive group. However, with two of the best goaltenders in the league, they can likely survive a few defensive mistakes.

Controversial Choice:

Seth Jones: The Columbus Blue Jackets certainly stormed a surprised NHL in the first half of the season. Jones, like his team, has developed in the last couple of years after being taken 4th overall by Nashville in 2013. However, Columbus has another young defenseman carrying the weight of this team. Zach Werenski leads all Columbus defense in points and sits first in points among rookie defensemen. Arguably, Jones’ spot could be his.

Atlantic Division: Captain Carey Price (Montreal), Coach Michel Therrien (Montreal)

Forwards: 

  • Nikita Kucherov (Tampa Bay Lightning)- Leads Lightning in points
  • Brad Marchand (Boston Bruins)-Leads Bruins in points
  • Auston Matthews (Toronto Maple Leafs)- Leads all rookies in goals
  • Frans Nielsen (Detroit Red Wings)- 3rd in points on Red Wings
  • Kyle Okposo (Buffalo Sabres)- Leads Sabres in points
  • Vincent Trochek (Florida Panthers)- Leads Panthers in points

Rating: 6/10

Defensemen: 

  • Victor Hedman (Tampa Bay Lightning)- Leads Lightning defense in points
  • Erik Karlesson (Ottawa Senators)- Leads NHL defensemen in assists
  • Shea Weber (Montreal Canadiens)- Leads Canadiens defensemen in points

Rating: 9/10

Goaltenders:

  • Carey Price (Montreal Canadiens)- Leads Canadiens in GAA and Save Percentage
  • Tuukka Rask (Boston Bruins)- Leads Bruins in GAA and Save Percentage

Rating: 8/10

Analysis: 

While the Metro division may excel in forwards, the Atlantic will pose a threat on defense. The star power of Weber, Karlsson and Hedman, all strong skating defensemen, essentially adds another forward to the three-on three match up. With Karlsson’s calm, offensive pressure and Weber’s booming slap shot, the Atlantic division team would do well in allowing them more time with the puck. As for the forwards, Auston Matthews will likely be the talking point. The rookie has carried the Leafs this season and will likely bare the brunt of the offense on Sunday. As for goaltending, teams should take advantage of Rask being in net when Price is not, as he will be easiest to score on.

Controversial Choice:

Frans Nielsen: The Red Wings have been struggling this season but there are a few wings who haven’t struggled in points. Nielsen sits third overall in points but there are five players ahead of him with more goals. Thomas Vanek and Henrik Zetterberg, both experienced veterans, are ahead of Nielsen in points, goals and assists. There’s no question that Nielsen’s spot should have gone to one of them.

Central Division: Captain P.K. Subban (Nashville Predators), Coach Bruce Boudreau (Minnesota Wild) 

Forwards: 

  • Patrick Kane (Chicago Blackhawks)- Leads Blackhawks in points
  • Patrik Laine (Winnipeg Jets)- Second in rookies for goals and points
  • Nathan MacKinnon (Colorado Avalanche)- Leads Avalanche in points
  • Tyler Seguin (Dallas Stars)- Leads Stars in points
  • Vladimir Tarasenko (St. Louis Blues)- Leads Blues in points
  • Jonathan Toews (Chicago Blackhawks)- 3rd in Face-Off Percentage on Blackhawks

Rating: 9/10

Defensemen: 

  • P.K Subban (Nashville Predators)- Second in points by Nashville defensmen
  • Duncan Keith (Chicago Blackhawks)- Leads Blackhawks defensemen in points
  • Ryan Suter (Minnesota Wild)- Leads Wild defensemen in points

Rating: 8/10

Goaltenders: 

  • Corey Crawford (Chicago Blackhawks)- Leads team in wins
  • Devan Dubnyk (Minnesota Wild)- Leads NHL in GAA and Save Percentage

Rating: 8/10

Analysis: 

The Central division looks good on paper in almost every aspect of the game. However, some of the normal superstars have been under producing this season. MacKinnon and Seguin have excelled on their struggling teams, yet normal go-to forward Jonathan Toews has been underproducing. With Laine up front, the amount of young talent in the Central could give them the offensive advantage. On the back-end, Subban, Keith and Suter are all reliable veterans and confident all-stars who get lots of ice time on their respective teams. Dubnyk has had an amazing first half of the season and will be the guy to shut the door on the backend. The goalie tandem is quite strong and only the tandem in the Metro division have the power to out do them.

Controversial Choice:

Jonathan Toews: While Toews is possibly the definition of an all-star player, some argue that he hasn’t shown it this season. Toews is one of the many superstars on the Blackhawks and he comes to LA with 3 teammates. However, Toews can not compete with the other all-stars in terms of points. He sits 6th in points on the Hawks and 7th in goals. The argument is two fold. First, there are arguably Blackhawks players more deserving of a nomination, such as Panarin or Hossa. Secondly, as difficult as it is to say being a Hawks fan, the Blackhawks don’t have the monopoly on All-Star players. There are plenty of super stars in the Central who could have earned a place on this team. Jamie Benn, while struggling this season, is still second in the Stars points race and Mark Scheifele is playing the best hockey of his career in Winnipeg. While Toews can easily compete with any other player there, he probably hasn’t quite earned his spot in the competition.

Pacific Division: Captain Connor McDavid (Edmonton Oilers), Coach Peter Deboer (San Jose Sharks)

Forwards:

  • Connor McDavid (Edmonton Oilers)- Leads NHL in points and assists
  • Jeff Carter (Los Angeles Kings)- Leads Kings in points
  • Johnny Gaudreau (Calgary Flames)- Tied for first among Flames players for PP points
  • Boe Horvat (Vancouver Canucks)- Leads Canucks in goals
  • Ryan Kesler (Anaheim Ducks)- Leads Ducks in goals
  • Joe Pavelski (San Jose Sharks)- Leads Sharks forwards in goals and points

Rating: 8/10

Defensemen: 

  • Brent Burns (San Jose Sharks)- Leads Sharks in points and NHL defensemen in points and goals
  • Drew Doughty (Los Angeles Kings)- Leads Kings defensemen in points
  • Cam Fowler (Anaheim Ducks)- Leads Ducks defensemen in points

Rating: 8/10

Goaltenders:

  • Martin Jones (San Jose Sharks)- 3rd most wins in NHL
  • Mike Smith (Arizona Coyotes)- Leads Coyotes in wins, GAA and Save Percentage

Rating: 7/10

Analysis:

With Johnny Gaudreau, the Pacific ultimately owns the three-on-three format of the All-Star game. Offense should come easy to the team, with the combined firepower of McDavid, Gaudreau, Kesler and Pavelski, not to mention veteran Jeff Carter and newcomer Bo Horvat. On defense, Brent Burns, who leads his team in goals, assists and points, will be an offensive presence, and will be at his best with the open ice. Goaltending will be the Pacific’s biggest flaw. Jones hasn’t had a bad season, especially now that he owns the starting job. However, Mike Smith has not been good this season, and has shared many of his starts with his back-up Louis Domingue. It will be interesting to see if he can compete against the league best.

Controversial Choice:

Mike Smith: While Smith plays for one of the weakest NHL teams and doesn’t have a very good defensive core, he has had better seasons than this one. While the Pacific doesn’t have the best goaltenders, there are a few who have been playing quite well, or at least, have winning records. In Anaheim, John Gibson has been playing well in his first season with the starting job. He has 19 wins and a 2.32 GAA while Smith has a 2.95 GAA. In Edmonton, Cam Talbot has won 25 and Budaj, an unlikely candidate, has a 2.06 GAA with 22 wins in LA. With the rule that the NHL must send a player from each team to the all-star game, Virbata has 33 points and could have been slotted in up front in exchange for another team’s goaltender.  Smith is the clearest weak spot on this Pacific team and likely shouldn’t be headed to LA.

Predictions: 

Skills Winner: Central Division

Final Matchup: Atlantic vs Pacific

Winner: Atlantic

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