Later this month, the stars of the NHL will descend on Tampa Bay for the annual All-Star game. There could be a sense of bitterness this year, as the event is replacing the NHL’s participation in the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, but a good weekend is expected once again for the league.
In addition to Saturday night’s skills competition, the four divisions will engage in a three-on-three tournament for the third straight season. Of course, the John Scott led Pacific won the first installation of this style back in Nashville in January of 2016.
Let’s meet the Pacific All-Stars, shall we?
Connor McDavid *Captain* (Edmonton Oilers), Brock Boeser (Vancouver Canucks), Johnny Gaudreau (Calgary Flames), Anze Kopitar (LA Kings), Rickard Rakell (Anaheim Ducks) and James Neal (Vegas Golden Knights)
McDavid is was elected team captain via the fan vote for the second straight season. It’ll also be McDavid’s second Al-Star game in just three seasons. Brock Boeser makes his first ever appearance at the event, and is the only rookie in the NHL who will head to Tampa. Quite an honor for Mr. Boeser.
Joining Boeser in his first appearance is Anaheim’s Rickard Rakell, who for my money is one of the most underrated forwards in the entire NHL.
Brent Burns (San Jose Sharks), Drew Doughty (LA Kings) and Oliver Ekman-Larsson (Arizona Coyotes)
Quite surprised that Burns made this team, to be honest. He’s one of the most dynamic players in the NHL, but he’s struggled this season and I’d argue he has not played near an All-Star level to this point in the season. Ekman-Larsson makes it by default as he is the only Coyote even close to an All-Star level, but he’s quietly put together another really good season in the desert.
Marc-Andre Fleury (Vegas Golden Knights) and Jonathan Quick (LA Kings)
Quick is healthy and back to form, so really there should be no surprises that he’s getting the nod here. He’s by far the best option in the Pacific Division and should be the main goalie for the team at the event. Fleury has the name recognition, and has been pretty good when he has actually played.
I know James Neal is a very popular player and by far Vegas’ best name up front, but I’m pretty surprised he made the cut. He’s had a pretty solid year (18-11-29) but isn’t close to being the team’s best forward. It appears the NHL screwed up here and decided to go with the bigger name rather than the better player and, quite frankly, better story.
More on that story in a moment.
Also surprised to see Fleury get the nod in net. He’s only played twelve games this season, which seems really low for an All-Star goaltender. Flower makes his case with a 9-2-1 record and .945 SV%, however. Still, I think this was a name thing for the NHL, and not picking the best player.
Rickard Rakell is also a surprise to me, but in a good way. On a team with Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler up front, Rakell simply does not get enough credit. To me, he’s the most skilled forward the Ducks have and he’s done an excellent job stepping up this season with all the injuries. Glad to see him finally getting noticed.
Jonathan Marchessault is a tremendous story and, for my money, the best player on the Vegas Golden Knights. His 40 points on the season lead Vegas, and he’s on pace for his second straight 30 goals season. You may not be familiar with him, but he is bona-fide and is going to be a great player for Vegas moving forward. There is no good reason why he isn’t going to Tampa.
He may not be a sexy name, but John Gibson was also snubbed, and should be heading to Tampa over Marc-Andre Fleury. His record doesn’t pop out at you, only 13-13-6, but Gibson has a .923 SV% on the season and has been the only reason has been in games some nights. He’s a terrific goalie and should be getting rewarded for it over a guy who has played in only 12 games all season long.
My All-Star Team:
Had I been in charge of selecting the All-Stars for the Pacific Division, here’s how I would have went.
Forwards: Connor McDavid (EDM), Brock Boeser (VAN), Johnny Gaudreau (CGY), Anze Kopitar (LA), Rickard Rakell (ANA), Jonathan Marchessault (LV)
Defenders: Oliver Ekman-Larsson (ARI), Brent Burns (SJ), Drew Doughty (LA)
Goalies: Jonathan Quick (LA) and John Gibson (ANA)
Photo Credit: Flickr/mark6mauno C.C. 2.0