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NHL All-Star team projections: Metropolitan Division

March 31 2015: Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) and center Evgeny Kuznetsov (92) during a NHL game at Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. Capitals won 4-2.
(Tony Quinn/Icon Sportswire)

Is three-on-three hockey the greatest thing ever? Yeah, probably. And it will be on full display at next month’s NHL All-Star festivities, where the old format will be replaced by a new look built around a three-on-three tournament.

The rules are pretty simple: each division builds an 11-man roster, consisting of six forwards, three defensemen and two goalies. The Metro plays the Atlantic in a quick, 20-minute game, the Central and Pacific do the same and the two winners then meet for the championship.

Assembling those rosters might not be so easy though — particularly in the Metro, a division loaded with some of the sport’s biggest names. Complicating things even further is the fact that every single NHL club needs to be represented, making it almost impossible for any one team to send more than two guys to the show.

 

FORWARDS

Mike Cammalleri, NJD.
How is New Jersey winning hockey games? Who knows? But it’s fun, and Cammalleri certainly has something to do with it. In a division that has more than its fair share of high-profile offensive weapons, Cammalleri is actually leading the way with 30 points.

Alex Ovechkin, WSH.
Guessing I don’t have to explain this one…

Evgeny Kuznetsov, WSH.
For the longest time, Kuznetsov was considered the “best player outside the NHL.” Well, now he’s in the NHL and he’s on an absolute tear. The young Russian clearly gained some confidence during last year’s playoffs, and he has carried it over into this season — as evidenced by his seven multi-point efforts already. Included on that list is a three-goal, five-point night, in which he reminded everyone just how dangerous he can be if he’s not watched closely every second he’s on the ice.

Evgeni Malkin, PIT.
It’s been a weird season in Pittsburgh, to say the least. And while some of the Pens’ skill players look almost robotic as they try to fit into Mike Johnston’s scheme, Malkin has broken out of late, erupting for eight goals and five assists over his last nine games. In other words, he’s starting to look like Evgeni Malkin again.

John Tavares, NYI.
He’s about as steady as it gets. When he’s on his game, the Isles win. When he isn’t (or he’s hurt), they look remarkably average. Fortunately for New York, he’s usually on his game.

Claude Giroux, PHI.
Is Sidney Crosby a better hockey player than Giroux? Yes. Should he be here over Giroux? Probably, though he’s clearly gotten off to a subpar start, by his standards. And what about Nicklas Backstrom, who never seems to get invited to these games? Yeah, he’s deserving as well. Thing is, every team needs to send a guy. Giroux is clearly option No. 1 for Philly — and he’s having a good season in his own right, with 22 points in 27 games.

 

DEFENSEMEN

Justin Faulk, CAR.
Probably Carolina’s best player, and the Metro needs a puck-moving D-man here. Perfect.

Ryan Murray, CBJ.
Columbus has started to even things out a little after the rough start, but the forwards are going to have a hard time cracking this roster, given the wealth of talent in front of them. And Sergei Bobrovsky’s brutal October will certainly hold him back as well. Enter: Ryan Murray, who the Jackets are counting on to anchor their blue line for many years to come.

Ryan McDonagh, NYR.
A number of defenders could make a claim for this spot, but we’ll give the nod to the guy captaining the first place team in the division. Just know that John Carlson of Washington is extremely close — to the point where I’m about to switch this if I think about it much longer.

 

GOALIES

Braden Holtby, WSH.
There have been some phenomenal performances by the netminders in the Metro so far, but Holtby has arguably been the best. In 21 starts, he’s suffered just four regulation losses. And his 1.95 goals against average and .928 save percentage are flat-out Vezina-worthy.

Henrik Lundqvist, NYR.
Seriously, Marc-Andre Fleury has a 2.24 GAA and can’t even find his way onto this team, thanks to Holtby and — of course — Lundqvist. King Henrik has been predictably unbeatable, posting a 14-5-3 record, a 1.99 GAA and a mind-boggling .938 save percentage. So what else is new?

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