NHL announces All-Star Game rosters, and there are a few snubs and surprises

Auston Matthews, Alex Ovechkin and Patrik Laine are among the notable inclusions on the All-Star Game rosters, but there are a few players who seemed like locks, such as Artemi Panarin and Cam Atkinson, who find themselves left out of the game.
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We’re little more than two weeks away from the All-Star Game in Los Angeles, and with the all-star captains chosen by way of fan vote, the final step in the preparations was setting the rosters for the second annual 3-on-3 tournament to crown the league’s most star-studded division.

While we already knew the likes of Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid would be at the game after being voted in as all-star captains, most of the other big names you’d expect to be featured at the game will be there. Alex Ovechkin, for instance, has made his way onto the Metropolitan Division roster, and Auston Matthews is set to make his All-Star Game debut as part of the Atlantic Division. In the West, Patrik Laine, if healthy in time for the game, will get the nod for the Central Division, while Bo Horvat has earned his way to a nod on the Pacific Division team.

The rosters aren’t perfect, though, and there are a few notable names who will find themselves vacationing elsewhere instead of living it up in Los Angeles come all-star weekend. 

Here are the rosters, along with the most intriguing three-man unit, biggest surprise on the list and the biggest snub:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

ATLANTIC DIVISION

Frans Nielsen, F, Detroit Red Wings

Nikita Kucherov, F, Tampa Bay Lightning

Vincent Trocheck, F, Florida Panthers

Auston Matthews, F, Toronto Maple Leafs

Kyle Okposo, F, Buffalo Sabres

Brad Marchand, F, Boston Bruins

Victor Hedman, D, Tampa Bay Lightning

Shea Weber, D, Montreal Canadiens

Erik Karlsson, D, Ottawa Senators

Carey Price, G, Montreal Canadiens (C)

Tuukka Rask, G, Boston Bruins

Coach: Michel Therrien, Montreal Canadiens

The Lightning, Bruins and Canadiens lead the way with two players each heading to the game, and it’s really hard to make much of a fuss about the lineup the Atlantic has assembled. 

Best three-man unit: Lining up Kucherov with Matthews and Karlsson would be a ton of fun. The speed and skill on that three-man unit would be near unstoppable, and the open ice play with Karlsson and Matthews, especially, would be something to behold. The best three-man units are always the ones that have the creativity to beat players one-on-one.

Biggest surprise: It’s a bit shocking to see Nielsen on this list. Tremendous player, no doubt, but he’s the third-highest scorer on the Red Wings, only three points ahead of rookie Anthony Mantha despite playing 15 more games. Thomas Vanek would have even been a better potential representative for Detroit given he’s managed 10 goals and 25 points in 29 games, good for second on the Red Wings.

Biggest snub: It’s tough, because you have to send the best players from every division while still sending a player from each team. With four teams sending just one player, someone was going to get left off the lineup. Hard to make any big complaints, but including Florida’s Jonathan Marchessault could have been a nice nod for the season he’s turned in thus far. He may never get the chance again.

METROPOLITAN DIVISION

Sidney Crosby, F, Pittsburgh Penguins (C)

Evgeni Malkin, F, Pittsburgh Penguins

Alex Ovechkin, F, Washington Capitals

John Tavares, F, New York Islanders

Wayne Simmonds, F, Philadelphia Flyers

Taylor Hall, F, New Jersey Devils

Justin Faulk, D, Carolina Hurricanes

Ryan McDonagh, D, New York Rangers

Seth Jones, D, Columbus Blue Jackets

Sergei Bobrovsky, G, Columbus Blue Jackets

Braden Holtby, G, Washington Capitals

Coach: John Tortorella, Columbus Blue Jackets

With Crosby at the helm of what is currently the league’s strongest division, there’s no way the Metropolitan won’t be the overwhelming favorites heading into the 3-on-3 tournament. It’s nice to see the Blue Jackets sending three people — two players and a coach — to the game. They’re not the big market, big-name team, but Columbus’ 16-game run had them earning well-deserved headlines.

Best three-man unit: It’s not Tortorella’s style to kick defense to the curb during the regular season, but don’t put it past him to go all out during the All-Star Game and give the fans what they want. And what they want is Crosby, Ovechkin and Malkin together. If it’s even for just one shift, it would be an exciting shift.

Biggest surprise: Flyers’ winger Simmonds getting the nod of Jakub Voracek, who’s the third-highest scoring player in the division, is about as strange as this roster gets, but it’s not the only odd decision. An eight-team division means pickings are slim for each team. Only Pittsburgh has two position players on the roster.

Biggest snub: Zach Werenski has earned his spot on the team, especially if rookie counterparts Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine are going to be at the game. His 25 points are tied for the most among all defensemen in the Metropolitan Division, yet Seth Jones got the nod ahead of Werenski. He and teammate Cam Atkinson miss out due to the lack of roster spots.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

CENTRAL DIVISION

Patrick Kane, F, Chicago Blackhawks

Jonathan Toews, F, Chicago Blackhawks

Tyler Seguin, F, Dallas Stars

Vladimir Tarasenko, F, St. Louis Blues

Patrik Laine, F, Winnipeg Jets

Nathan MacKinnon, F, Colorado Avalanche

P.K. Subban, D, Nashville Predators (C)

Ryan Suter, D, Minnesota Wild

Duncan Keith, D, Chicago Blackhawks

Devan Dubnyk, G, Minnesota Wild

Corey Crawford, G, Chicago Blackhawks

Coach: Bruce Boudreau, Minnesota Wild

The Chicago Blackhawks lead the way at the All-Star Game with four players en route to Los Angeles, which should come as a surprise to just about no one given the team’s popularity. That said, one can’t help but feel like at least one of those spots could have been given to another team.

Best three-man unit: If there’s some way to get Kane skating alongside Tarasenko with Subban on the backend, that would be ideal. You could even slip Laine in the Tarasenko spot and have Kane as the set-up man for one of Laine’s one-timer blasts. Either way, putting Kane and Subban together has magic written all over it.

Biggest surprise: Toews had a chance of making the roster based on the Blackhawks’ popularity alone but he certainly hasn’t earned it with his play this season. He ranks seventh on the Blackhawks in scoring, has a mere three points more than Ryan Hartman (!) and sits 10 points back of both Artem Anisimov and Artemi Panarin. Speaking of which…

Biggest snub: Not much use getting bent out of shape about a roster for a meaningless game, but it’s bizarre the league passed on Panarin. He won the Calder Trophy last season, finished top-10 in scoring in 2015-16, is sixth in scoring this season and he’s the kind of dynamic talent this game could be used to showcase. Panarin being left off is the only reason the Jets’ Mark Scheifele isn’t the most obvious snub.

PACIFIC DIVISION

Connor McDavid, F, Edmonton Oilers (C)

Ryan Kesler, F, Anaheim Ducks

Johnny Gaudreau, F, Calgary Flames

Jeff Carter, F, Los Angeles Kings

Bo Horvat, F, Vancouver Canucks

Joe Pavelski, F, San Jose Sharks

Cam Fowler, D, Anaheim Ducks

Brent Burns, D, San Jose Sharks

Drew Doughty, D, Los Angeles Kings

Martin Jones, G, San Jose Sharks

Mike Smith, G, Arizona Coyotes

Coach: Peter DeBoer, San Jose Sharks

Who would have figured that the hosts of the All-Star Game would send only two players? It’s been that kind of season for the Kings, though, and there’s no reason to expect the likes of Anze Kopitar or Marian Gaborik to find their way onto the roster. Each Californian team will have at least two players at the contest, but the defending Western Conference champion San Jose Sharks lead the way with a trio of participants.

Best three-man unit: Please, please, please let us see McDavid with Gaudreau and Burns. Three of the game’s most exciting players all on one unit would surely produce some highlights. It’s almost a certainty it happens at some point, too.

Biggest surprise: It’s not surprising in the sense that he doesn’t deserve to be there, but one would have figured that the NHL might take this chance — especially given Toews’ participation and it being the league’s 100th anniversary — to send one of the Sedins for what could be one final hurrah at the All-Star Game. Really nice to see Horvat get the chance to go, though. His 13-goal, 29-point performance this season has been great.

Biggest snub: Smith has been good this year. Very good, in fact. And Jones has been stellar for the Sharks. But have both been good enough to warrant going to the game ahead of Cam Talbot? The Oilers netminder has a better save percentage than any 30-plus game starter in the division and he ranks 10th in the NHL in 5-on-5 SP. Talbot and Smith should have been the goaltending tandem.

There may still be some wiggle-room on the rosters as the final weekend of January approaches, so don’t go thinking these rosters are set in stone. There’s almost certain to be a player or two who’s forced to drop out due to injury or, you know, “injury,” in order to get a few day’s rest instead of participating at the league event. And even if these are the final rosters, the All-Star Game itself should be more than enough fun that any perceived snubs will be a distant memory once a few highlight-reel moments go down.

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