NHL All-Star game changes and lineup predictions

all star

Last week the NHL announced that the All-Star Game being hosted in Nashville on January 31, 2016 will see a major format shift. Instead of the traditional 60 minute hockey game between the top players on two sides, the NHL is trying a 3-on-3 tournament that would split each division into its own roster.

The way the tournament would go is the Metropolitan division would take on the Atlantic in a 20 minute game. Then the Central would take on the Pacific in a 20 minute game. The winner of each game would then face off for the championship in a final 20 minute period. For those counting at home, it still ends up being 60 minutes of all star action, just in a different form.

When I first heard of this, I honestly thought it seemed a little cheap, but once I started thinking of the lineups that each division could bring and the pace you may see in the game, it seemed like a creative new idea.

As a Sabres writer I was interested in who our best players were that may represent Buffalo. The three names that kept running through my mind were O’Reilly, Eichel and Ristolainen. We are about a quarter of the way into the season and without a doubt those three have been the most impressive.

With that in mind, I created a roster for each division to see what they would look like and where our Sabres fall into place. The league has said each team will have 9-10 skaters plus some goalies (they have not specified the number yet). It is expected each team will field six forwards, three defenseman, and two goalies and one bench forward and one bench defenseman so coaches have a sub for injury or just to switch the lineup around. That allows an even amount of time for each player and protects the players.

Please keep in mind that these lineups are based off right now, Sidney Crosby will probably make it off a fan vote and be a point per game player by then. My money would be the Central beating the Atlantic for the championship.

Atlantic:

Forwards
Defense
Goaltenders
Ryan O'Reilly (Sabres)Erik Karlsson (Senators)Carey Price (Canadiens)
David Krejci (Bruins)Victor Hedman (Lightning)Roberto Luongo (Panthers)
Brendan Gallagher (Canadiens)P.K. Subban (Canadiens)How is he not in: Mark Stone

He has had a great season,
but the depth on forward
is sublime and just not
enough open space to
put him in.
Bobby Ryan (Senators)Bench sub: Rasmus Ristolainen (Sabres)
Henrik Zetterberg (Red Wings)
Steven Stamkos (Lightning)
Bench sub: Max Pacioretty (Canadiens)

The Atlantic Division has a ton of star power all over with Norris winners on defense to Vezina quality goalies. That is not to discount a star-studded veteran forward crop. Buffalo should see O’Reilly represent the Sabres given he is the current team points leader currently and leads all NHL forwards in ice time.

It seems like the NHL will not enforce each team needing a representative and because of that, Ristolainen would be able to take a bench spot for defense. I tried to mix in players with maximum star value, while considering that Montreal and Ottawa are having good seasons and deserve a few representatives for their lineups.

Tampa, while starting slowly, still attracts a lot of attention with the talent on their roster-Stamkos and Hedman would be good representatives for their team. David Krejci is having a career year for Boston and is a must.

The Panthers have a good young team but their aging stars Jagr and Luongo would probably be their best representatives. Jagr could also be a good fill-in as the bench sub, but Luongo has been without a doubt the 2nd best goaltender in the division and would be a worthy all star.

Metropolitan:

Forwards

1.     Mike Cammalleri New Jersey Devils

2.     Mats Zuccarello New York Rangers

3.     John Tavares New York Islanders

4.     Evgeni Malkin Pittsburgh Penguins

5.     Alexander Ovechkin Washington Capitals

6.     Claude Giroux Philadelphia Flyers

 

Bench Sub: Evgeny Kuznetsov Washington Capitals

 

Defense

1.  Justin Faulk Carolina Hurricanes

2.  John Carlson Washington Capitals

3.  Ryan McDonagh

New York Rangers

 

 

 

 

 

Bench Sub: Johnny Boychuk New York Islanders

 

 

Goalies

1.     Henrik Lundqvist New York Rangers

2.     Cory Schneider New Jersey Devils

 

How is he not in: Sidney Crosby

Pittsburgh Penguins

 

Some people will have an aneurism seeing this, but Crosby really has not been that good this year. He is averaging .5 points per game and has been a step behind to start the year. Still plenty of time for things to change.

 

 

The Metropolitan Division is led by a lot of forwards having career seasons like Mike Cammalleri in New Jersey and Mats Zuccarello, who is having a torrid start to the year for the Rangers. Tavares, Malkin and Ovechkin are dominating per usual with their respective clubs, while Kuznetsov has really grown into a dominant player who is worthy of at least a bench spot.

The defense sees three of the stronger overall defensemen represented in the division with Faulk, Carlson, and McDonagh all having well-rounded games and good seasons to date. Boychuk has been excellent for the Isles and deserves an opportunity to show his strong play.

Not surprising, the decision in net was very easy with Lundqvist, but I put Schneider in over Holtby. I believe Schneider means more to the Devils surprising start than Holtby to the Caps which is why I gave him the nod.

Central:

Forwards

1.   Patrick Kane Chicago Blackhawks

2.   Tyler Seguin Dallas Stars

3.   Jamie Benn Dallas Stars

4.   Vladamir Tarasenko St Louis Blues

5.   Nathan McKinnon Colorado Avalanche

6.   Blake Wheeler Winnipeg Jets

 

 

Bench Sub: Jonathan Toews Chicago Blackhawks

Defense

1.  Ryan Suter Minnesota Wild

2.  Brent Seabrook Chicago Blackhawks

3.  Roman Josi Nashville Predators

 

 

 

 

 

Bench Sub: Shea Weber

Nashville Predators

Goalies

1.  Pekka Rinne Nashville Predators

2.  Jake Allen St Louis Blues

 

How is he not in: Duncan Keith

Chicago Blackhawks

 

Keith was injured to start the first six weeks and Seabrook has played very well in his absence.   With the game in Nashville it made sense to give Weber that bench spot at home.

To be honest the Central Division could ice a B team that very well could beat the other 3 divisions. The skill at forward is utterly sublime and the amount of skilled forwards missing from there is remarkable. That is how deep though the Central is.

To see Kane and Seguin play together or Tarasenko with Toews would be something of beauty. The defense is very strong and by the all-star break, it would be very likely for Duncan Keith to be in the lineup and Seabrook out.

If there is an area of weakness in the lineup for the Central, it’s goaltending. I’d give the nod to Rinne, who has been pretty close to an elite goaltender for the majority of his career, and Allen who’s been solid and definitely deserving of an appearance.

Pacific

Forwards

1.   Taylor Hall Edmonton Oilers

2.   Johnny Gaudreau Calgary Flames

3.   Tyler Toffoli Los Angeles Kings

4.   Jeff Carter Los Angeles Kings

5.   Daniel Sedin Vancouver Canucks

6.   Joe Pavelski San Jose Sharks

 

 

 

 

 

Bench Sub: Max Domi

Arizona Coyotes

Defense

1.Brent Burns San Jose Sharks

2.Oliver Ekman-Larsson Arizona Coyotes

3.Drew Doughty Los Angeles Kings

 

 

 

 

Bench Sub: Marc-Edouard Vlasic

San Jose Sharks

Goalies

1.  Frederik Andersen Anahiem Ducks

2.  Martin Jones San Jose Sharks

 

How is he not in: Jonathan Quick

Los Angeles Kings

 

Because we need to have one player per team and Andersen leads the division in save percentage, Quick gets bumped. Jones has played a little better and deserves the chance.

Before Connor McDavid got injuired this lineup would have been really fun to watch just to see him as line mates with Johnny Gaudreau or Daniel Sedin. Unfortunately, he’s not expected back until very close to the All Star break, so having him as a regular starter would be robbing someone more deserving.

The forwards still have some nice talent with youngsters like Taylor Hall, Johnny, Gaudreau and Tyler Toffoli. Veterans like Jeff Carter, Daniel Sedin, and Joe Pavelski give the lineup a nice blend of maturity. Max Domi has been sensational as a rookie and his play/scoring earns him the bench spot.

The defense has some really nice elite players with Doughty, Larsson, and Burns. In net, Andersen would be the lone Duck representative and justifiable so given he has been the one positive the Anahiem has had all season. Martin Jones for now would go in ahead of former teammate Jonathan Quick given his strong start, but this could end up being swapped by All Star weekend.

The NHL typically has the rookies play some sort of mini game on Saturday night during the skills competition. At least for this year given the talent and strong play from both conferences rookies you could do a 10-minute three on three game between the East and West.

Perhaps the winner could then take on a mega all-star combo of players (Kane, Seguin, Subban, Doughty, Lundqvist?) at the end of the skills tourney. Anyway here would be potential lines using 4 forwards, 2 defensemen, and one goalie for two rookie rosters:

Eastern Forwards Defense Goalie
1.   Jack Eichel Buffalo Sabres

2.   Dylan Larkin Detroit Red Wings

3.   Oscar Lindberg New York Rangers

4.   Sam Reinhart Buffalo Sabres

1.  Noah Hanifin Carolina Hurricanes

2.  Colin Millers Boston Bruins

1. Linus Ullmark Buffalo Sabres
Western Forwards Defense Goalie
1.   Connor McDavid Edmonton Oilers

2.   Max Domi Arizona Coyotes

3.   Nicholas Ehlers Winnipeg Jets

4.   Artemi Panarin Chicago Blackhawks

1.  Colton Parayko St Louis. Blues

2.  Ben Hutton Vancouver Canucks

1. Anders Nilsson Edmonton Oilers

The forwards for both sides offer a glimpse at the future of the league. For both teams you could add another two to three guys that also deserve to be here. The defense for both sides is led by young Carolina standout Noah Hanifin. This year has been a quieter year for rookie goaltenders, but Buffalo’s own Linus Ullmark would be a good representative.

Craig Mazuchowski
Craig Mazuchowski
SUNY Oswego Alumni. Self-taught guitarist. I've been a Sabres and hockey fan since birth. I've also refereed youth hockey and play in a men’s league. My tombstone will be in the shape of pizza.

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