It’s hockey, it’s three-on-three and it’s the best players in the world. What more could you want?
That’s essentially the tagline for the NHL’s new All-Star format — one in which each division will field a lineup of six forwards, three defensemen and two goalies in a single elimination tournament. Each game will feature three-on-three, pond-style hockey and will last 20 minutes.
The one caveat? Every one of the league’s 30 clubs needs to have at least one representative at the event. And that can make fielding an 11-man roster out of an eight-team division a little more challenging. Here’s a look at how the Atlantic might shake out.
David Krejci, BOS.
Boston’s lone All-Star is quietly having a fantastic season. Which, to be fair, will probably be the name of Krejci’s autobiography someday. After a disappointing, injury-riddled 2014-15 campaign, Krejci is back to his old tricks. He’s already nearly matched last year’s total with 27 points — and he’s only 26 games in. Basically, he’s the guy that fell about three to four rounds further than he should have in your fantasy draft, and whoever took him is probably sitting in first now.
James van Riemsdyk, TOR.
See? This is what I was talking about. Nothing against van Riemsdyk, who has notched a cool 16 points and been a nice presence on Toronto’s power play. He’s legitimately having a very nice year. But in a division where you could almost field an entire All-Star lineup with just Montreal players, JVR is only here because the Maple Leafs have to send someone.
Mike Hoffman, OTT.
So much for a sophomore slump. A year after surprising a lot of people with 27 goals and 21 assists as a “rookie” (he had played 29 NHL games before that, but they were spread out over three seasons), Hoffman leads the Atlantic with 14 goals in 23 games. You know the Sens already have a representative locked in on the blue line, so the fact that Hoffman gets to go says something about what he’s done so far.
Dylan Larkin, DET.
He’s 19 years old, playing on Detroit’s top line and leading all rookies — and all Red Wings — with 11 goals. Tough to argue with that resume.
Max Pacioretty, MON.
He’s the captain of one of the best hockey teams in the world, and the offense essentially runs through him up front. Yet he still seems to be relatively overlooked at times. That ends here.
Jaromir Jagr, FLA.
All I want is to watch 43-year-old Jaromir Jagr (20 points) play continuous three-on-three hockey. Don’t take that from me.
Erik Karlsson, OTT.
His 32 points lead all defensemen (again) and he’s well on his way to heavy Norris consideration in June (again). By the way, he’s already on next year’s team too. And the year after.
P.K. Subban, MON.
Few D-men in the NHL are more deserving of an All-Star nod than Subban, though one of them is in this division. His 20 assists rank fifth in the league — among all skaters — and he continues to trigger the attack for a storied franchise on the short list of realistic Cup contenders. Plus, he’ll wear some sort of crazy suit to the All-Star game that makes everyone roll their eyes at first, then nod in admiration once they get used to it. There’s no stat for that.
Rasmus Ristolainen, BUF.
This is where I wish we had the old fantasy draft format back, just so we could all witness a fired up Drew Doughty trying to pronounce Ristolainen’s name. The gifted Finn is logging 24:10 of ice time per night, and his 18 points rank third among all blueliners in the Atlantic, not to mention second overall on the Sabres.
Ben Bishop, TBL.
How strange has this season been? Tampa Bay’s lone All-Star is a goalie. Put another way, the team that led the NHL in scoring and rode a high-octane offense all the way to the Stanley Cup Final six months ago is only sending a goalie. Granted, Bishop (2.00 goals against average, .929 save percentage) is an obvious choice, but still.
Carey Price, MON.
Even in limited action, his numbers warrant a spot. His 2.06 GAA and .934 save percentage are typically unreal, and his 10 wins — in just 12 starts, mind you — are just two off the division lead. Who knows if he’ll be healthy enough to go by the time All-Star weekend rolls around but, if not, just send Mike Condon. He’s used to being Price’s stunt double.