By Ainsley Smith
The 60th annual National Hockey League All-Star Weekend is officially underway in Columbus, Ohio, showcasing all of the raw talent the NHL has to offer. With some of the leagues most prominent players participating, from the most elite to some NHL newcomers, it’s guaranteed that there won’t be any fans tossing their jerseys onto the ice in disappointment.
— NHL (@NHL) January 23, 2015
From an entertainment point of view the skills competition shows the talent that some players have that you don’t get to see during real games. It also fills the gap between the AFC and NFC championships and the Superbowl, which provides a break for players and allows them to rest and heal up their bumps and bruises. The weekend kicks off with a fantasy player draft, led by team captains, Jonathan Toews, the Chicago Blackhawks current center points leader, and Columbus Blue Jacket forward Nick Foligno.
When asked what player would be a better leader over the course of the weekend, Adam Proteau, senior writer for The Hockey News, laughed and said, “are you serious?” Since Toews has already played in the NHL all-star game previously before, he will stand out as a stronger leader next to Foligno, said Proteau. Foligno playing for Columbus was obviously a great choice, he said. But he is most likely there because the city would want him there over another team’s captain. On Thursday afternoon, the Pittsburgh Penguins announced superstar center Evgeni Malkin would no longer be participating in the 2015 NHL all-star game, due to a lower-body injury. Later the same day, it was announced that teammate Sidney Crosby would also no longer be playing, due to a lower-body injury as well.
The Penguins have not yet specified when Malkin will return, but Crosby is expected to miss approximately one week and won’t be allowed to play in Pittsburgh’s next game on Jan. 27, said an NHL statement.
Montreal Canadiens defensemen P.K Subban would also be left out of this weekend’s festivities, said Proteau.
“P.K embodies the spirit of an all-star. He is a spectacle both on and off the ice. Fans need to look beyond tradition and move past the all-white roster.” -Adam Proteau.
In a recent article, Sportsnet writer Scott Lewis said that he believes P.K not being selected to play is one of the top all-star snubs of all time. Lewis said Subban is one of the most entertaining and exciting players to watch in the league, so the fact he wasn’t invited, doesn’t seem fair.
A puck will be flipped to determine which team is awarded the first overall selection for picking teams, with captains Foligno and Toews, joined by their Assistant Captains, alternately drafting the 36 remaining All-Stars through 18 rounds, said the NHL website.
Toews will be accompanied by Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim Ducks), and Rick Nash (New York Rangers). Foligno will be assisted by Drew Doughty (LA Kings) and Patrick Kane (Chicago Blackhawks). Each team will be comprised of three goaltenders, six defensemen and 12 forwards. To ensure the final draft picks are not predetermined due to position requirements, each team’s three goaltenders must be picked by the end of Round 10 and each team’s six defensemen must be picked by the end of Round 15. One trade per team is allowed.
“I have no predictions on how Friday’s draft will go. The captains could vote two ways… they could be serious and actually put some thought and consideration into it, or they could pick on a whim and go with their buddies that they played junior with,” said Proteau.
Players up for grabs are:
|G||Corey Crawford||Chicago Blackhawks|
|G||Brian Elliott||St. Louis Blues|
|G||Marc-Andre Fleury||Pittsburgh Penguins|
|G||Roberto Luongo||Florida Panthers|
|G||Carey Price||Montreal Canadiens|
|G||Jaroslav Halak||New York Islanders|
|F||Zemgus Girgensons||Buffalo Sabres|
|F||Patrice Bergeron||Boston Bruins|
|F||Ryan Johansen||Columbus Blue Jackets|
|F||Tyler Seguin||Dallas Stars|
|F||Ryan Nugent-Hopkins||Edmonton Oilers|
|F||Anze Kopitar||Los Angeles Kings|
|F||Patrik Elias||New Jersey Devils|
|F||John Tavares||New York Islanders|
|F||Claude Giroux||Philadelphia Flyers|
|F||Filip Forsberg||Nashville Predators|
|F||Tyler Johnson||Tampa Bay Lightning|
|F||Steven Stamkos||Tampa Bay Lightning|
|F||Jonathan Toews||Chicago Blackhawks|
|F||Ryan Getzlaf||Anaheim Ducks|
|F||Alexander Ovechkin||Washington Capitals|
|F||Rick Nash||New York Rangers|
|F||Nick Foligno||Columbus Blue Jackets|
|F||Bobby Ryan||Ottawa Senators|
|F||Jakub Voracek||Philadelphia Flyers|
|F||Vladimir Tarasenko||St. Louis Blues|
|F||Phil Kessel||Toronto Maple Leafs|
|F||Radim Vrbata||Vancouver Canucks|
|F||Patrick Kane||Chicago Blackhawks|
|D||Duncan Keith||Chicago Blackhawks|
|D||Brent Seabrook||Chicago Blackhawks|
|D||Oliver Ekman-Larsson||Arizona Coyotes|
|D||Mark Giordano||Calgary Flames|
|D||Justin Faulk||Carolina Hurricanes|
|D||Ryan Suter||Minnesota Wild|
|D||Shea Weber||Nashville Predators|
|D||Brent Burns||San Jose Sharks|
|D||Kevin Shattenkirk||St. Louis Blues|
|D||Dustin Byfuglien||Winnipeg Jets|
|D||Drew Doughty||Los Angeles Kings|
Added Rookies (Skills Competition Only)
|F||Johnny Gaudreau||Calgary Flames|
|F||Jiri Sekac||Montreal Canadiens|
|F||Filip Forsberg||Nashville Predators|
|F||Mike Hoffman||Ottawa Senators|
|F||Jonathan Drouin||Tampa Bay Lightning|
|D||Aaron Ekblad||Florida Panthers|
Once the all-star teams are established, Saturday will consist of the skills competition and then the all-star game will take place Sunday at Columbus’s Nationwide Arena. The skills competition is a chance for some of the greatest hockey players in the world to forget about the pressures of the regular season, let loose, have some fun and showcase some of their talents that make them the best of the best.
The skills competition is made up of six events, including: fastest skater, breakaway challenge, accuracy shooting, skills challenge relay, hardest shot, and finally, the shootout. Currently, the hardest shot in NHL history is held by Boston Bruins Zdeno Chara, who sent the puck flying between the pipes at 108.8 mph, according to the NHL.
There are 19 points available in the first five events, and the weekend comes to a close Sunday evening with a matchup between team Foligno and team Toews.
Proteau said doesn’t expect that any particular player will stand out more than anyone else over the weekend.
“Any player that truly wants to take part in this weekend and make a conscious effort, it will show,” he said.