This year’s NHL All-Star Game on Jan. 31 has already met its quota for controversy.
There was the switch in format to one that will see the league’s four divisions facing off against each other in a 3-on-3 mini-tournament. There was the decision to do away with the popular Fantasy Draft. And then there was that fan voting debacle.
And we haven’t even gotten to the usual rending of garments and gnashing of teeth that follows the announcement of the roster fill-out.
That will come on Wednesday when the league reveals the players who who will join team captains Alex Ovechkin, Patrick Kane, Jaromir Jagr and John Scott at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena for All-Star Weekend.
Narrowing down the list is no easy task. The new format, which will see four divisional teams comprised of six forwards, three defensemen and two goalies (with each team getting at least one representative) is bound to leave a few deserving players at home, as happens every year.
But I’m here to help with the process. Here’s who should get the call for the Central and Pacific Divisions:
Patrick Kane (Blackhawks):
Matt Duchene (Avalanche): Toss up between him and Nathan MacKinnon; Duchene gets the edge with team-leading 18 goals (seventh in conference).
Jamie Benn (Stars): Defending Art Ross champion leads NHL with 24 goals; second in league with 52 points.
Tyler Seguin (Stars): Third in league scoring (50 points): first in even-strength goals with 15.
Vladimir Tarasenko (Blues): Tied for second in NHL with 23 goals; second in even-strength goals with 13.
Blake Wheeler (Jets): Breakthrough season has winger in seventh in NHL with 40 points; fourth with 30 assists.
Ryan Suter (Wild): Averaging 28:17 on ice per game, second-most in the league; second on Wild with 20 assists.
Roman Josi (Predators): Third among Western Conference blueliners with 29 points; top scorer for hometown Predators.
Shea Weber (Predators):John Klingberg of the Stars deserves this spot, but look for the home team to get a second representative; Weber is a fan favorite and is odds-on to win his second Hardest Shot competition.
Corey Crawford (Blackhawks): Leads the league with six shutouts; top three in wins (20), GAA (2.24) and save percentage (.925) in Western Conference.
Jake Allen (Blues): Leads Western Conference with 2.11 GAA, .926 save percentage; second with 18 wins.
John Scott (Coyotes):
Johnny Gaudreau (Flames): Led NHL with 12 goals in 13 December games to earn league’s First Star honors; has counted five game-winning goals, third-most in the league.
Taylor Hall (Oilers): Tied for league lead with 29 even-strength points; fifth overall in league scoring with 41 points.
Tyler Toffoli (Kings): Tied for seventh in the league with 19 goals; tops in thew division with seven power-play goals.
Joe Pavelski (Sharks): Fifth in Western Conference with 20 goals; leads NHL with seven game-winning tallies.
Daniel Sedin (Canucks): Leads Vancouver with 17 goals and 38 points; third in divisional scoring.
Sami Vatanen (Ducks): Anaheim's best and most consistent player during dysfunctional first half; second on team with 15 helpers.
Drew Doughty (Kings): Leads all NHL regulars with 58% Corsi; second on Kings with 17 assists.
Brent Burns (Sharks): Leads all defensemen with 17 power play points; tops among blueliners with 163 shots on net.
Jonathan Quick (Kings): Leads conference with 22 wins; fourth in GAA at 2.12.
John Gibson (Ducks): Leads NHL with 1.63 GAA; fourth with .932 save percentage.