In case you’ve somehow missed it, this year’s NHL All-Star game will have a new format. Instead of one game, hockey fans get three. And instead of five-on-five play with no discernible defense, we get three-on-three play… with even less discernible defense.
Each contest will last 20 minutes, instead of 60, with the winners of the first two games meeting in the championship game. And instead of conferences or a fantasy draft, the four rosters will be based on the four divisions. Each lineup will consist of six forwards, three defensemen and two goalies and, as always, every NHL club needs to be represented in the festivities. Which makes picking the participants a little more complicated — particularly in the loaded Central Division.
Jamie Benn, DAL.
Well, let’s see — he’s the highest-scoring player on the league’s highest-scoring team. And he’s the reigning Art Ross winner. Yeah, we can go ahead and give him the nod.
Tyler Seguin, DAL.
Seguin’s actually tied with Benn atop the Stars’ stat sheet, so most of what was said above applies here too. Why not just throw the two of them together and watch the scoring commence? Lindy Ruff’s been doing it all year.
Patrick Kane, CHI.
Generally speaking, he leads everyone in every stat. No way you can put this lineup together without him
Vladimir Tarasenko, STL.
In a division packed full of impressive offensive weapons, Tarasenko might actually be the most electrifying of them all. He doesn’t have the Stanley Cups that Kane has, or the all-world linemate that Benn and Seguin have, but Tarasenko has shown time and time again that he’s more than capable of making memorable plays on his own, if necessary. Letting him loose with all that open ice in a three-on-three scenario is what the new All-Star format is all about.
Matt Duchene, COL.
The Avalanche have the unenviable task of trying to climb their way out of the cellar in hockey’s most competitive division. While that’s quite the uphill battle, they at least have some quality young forwards to build around. Leading the way for that group this season is Duchene, whose 14 goals have him tied for fourth in the NHL scoring race.
Blake Wheeler, WPG.
This division really is loaded with offensive talent (five of the league’s top six goals scorers reside here right now), so there were a lot of different ways we could have gone here. The Jets need to be represented though, and Wheeler is turning in yet another steady effort this season, with 27 points in his first 27 games.
Ryan Suter, MIN.
The Wild have been solid, and Suter has been the anchor. His 21 points in 25 games have him well on the way to a career high, and his 28:16 of ice time per game once again leads the entire NHL.
John Klingberg, DAL.
The top scoring D-man in the Western Conference (27 points). Because, you know, Dallas needs more offense.
Shea Weber, NSH.
Simply being Shea Weber is typically enough to get invited to these kind of events, and this year is no different. Weber is the centerpiece of one of the more tenacious blue lines in hockey, possesses a blistering slap shot that no one in their right mind would ever voluntarily stand in front of and also just notched a hat trick on Saturday. In fact, his nine goals are second only to the 10 posted by Brent Burns among NHL defenders.
Jake Allen, STL.
The platoon in the Blues’ net is over. Allen has clearly taken over, as evidenced by his 2.23 goals against average, .922 save percentage and trio of shutouts.
Pekka Rinne, NSH.
Rinne was a lock for this spot and seemed well on his way to another Vezina push a couple weeks ago, but he’s slowed considerably of late — winning just one of his last seven outings. He’s still one of the best in the world though, and the game’s in Nashville this year. It would be tough for someone else (read: Devan Dubnyk) to unseat him.
Considering the wealth of talent in this division, there’s a few different ways you could take this lineup. It’s tough to argue with the validity of any of the names listed here though. My one regret is not finding a way to wedge Dustin Byfuglien onto the roster, because a) he’s certainly deserving and b) he openly hates three-on-three hockey so much.