NHL All-Star Predictions: Projecting the 2013 First and Second Teams
While the All-Star game itself was cancelled due to the lockout, that doesn't mean that the NHL won't announce their first- and second-team All-Stars at the annual awards show this summer as usual.
With the shortened season, teams are depending on their superstars more than ever to produce at a high level. While not everyone can take home the Hart Trophy as league MVP, getting a nod as a first- or second-team All-Star is still an outstanding accomplishment.
Second-Team Center: Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
At some juncture, Steven Stamkos will make the jump to first-team All-Star. It just won't be in 2013, despite a gnarly goal-scoring pace and sky-high point totals, per usual.
Stamkos is currently in a dog fight for the NHL's goal-scoring lead, fighting off Alexander Ovechkin and John Tavares, among others. Still, his electric play and awesome offensive output make him an easy selection to center the second All-Star team.
Second-Team Right Wing: Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning
Martin St. Louis continues to produce at an elite level in 2013 and is currently ranked third overall in scoring. He's always money on a line with Steven Stamkos, and the two provide the Tampa Bay Lightning with one of the most dynamic forward combinations in the NHL.
His outstanding numbers and output despite playing on a so-so Lightning squad make him a great pick for the second-team right wing spot.
Second-Team Left Wing: Chris Kunitz, Pittsburgh Penguins
Chris Kunitz is well on his way to his best season ever, and he is doing it by playing a simple game alongside the NHL's premier center. Kunitz skated with linemates Sidney Crosby and Pascal Dupuis during the lockout, and the chemistry that the trio has developed is approaching ridiculous.
He's made a season out of prowling around the front of the net with his stick down and deserves the honor of second-team All-Star.
Second-Team Defenseman: Francois Beauchemin, Anaheim Ducks
If the Norris Trophy wasn't typically awarded to the NHL's best offensive defenseman, I'd go out on a limb and say that Francois Beauchemin could possibly take home the hardware as the league's best defender.
He should at least be in the conversation, as he's been an absolute beast for the Anaheim Ducks in 2013, quietly putting together an All Star-worthy campaign as the anchor of the blue line. Beauchemin currently has the second-best plus/minus in the NHL, sporting a plus-23.
He logs a lot of minutes and has a penchant for breaking up plays while staying out of the box. He should get a nod as a second-team All-Star
Second-Team Defenseman: Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins
Kris Letang is among the best offensive defensemen in the NHL right now. He's currently the league's third-best scorer from the blue line. Letang has posted three goals and a whopping 25 assists through 28 games played and is a big cog in the Pittsburgh Penguins machine.
Letang is one of the best outlet passers around and helps get top-flight scorers into position quickly with his tape-to-tape feeds. You'd be hard-pressed to find a guy more deserving of a second-team All-Star selection.
Second-Team Goalie: Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets
Fans may discount Sergei Bobrovsky as an All-Star netminder because he plays for the Columbus Blue Jackets, but he's been lights-out since cementing himself as the starter in Ohio. The Jackets are in the thick of the playoff hunt after a meh-ish first half thanks to the masked man in net.
NHL.com has gone as far as to name Bobrovsky the front-runner for the Vezina. A second-team All-Star selection should be a no-brainer.
First-Team Center: Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
When he isn't catching pucks to the face and receiving oral surgery, Sidney Crosby is far and away the best offensive player in the NHL. He's the easiest selection on this All-Star team by far—Crosby still has an seven-point lead in the scoring race despite missing his last few games with an injury.
All told, Sid is the best offensive center in the league and deserves this spot on the first All-Star team.
First-Team Right Wing: Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
Patrick Kane has taken his game to a whole new level in 2013, and the Chicago Blackhawks are riding high on the waves of his newfound focus and energy. You'd be hard-pressed to find a more dynamic and engaging player with the puck right now. Something seems to happen every time Kaner enters the offensive zone.
Kane has been explosive all season long and deserves credit for his outstanding campaign with a first All-Star team nod.
First-Team Left Wing: Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
Slotting Alex Ovechkin in as the first team's left winger is cheating a bit since he's been spending almost all of his time on the right side since Adam Oates took over as coach of the Washington Capitals. Still, Ovie deserves bucket-loads of credit for rediscovering his scoring touch and leading the Caps back to prominence in the Eastern Conference.
Washington is riding high and challenging for the Southeast Division crown once again, thanks in no small part to Ovechkin and his scoring touch. As such, he's an easy selection as a first-team All-Star.
First-Team Defenseman: P.K. Subban, Montreal Canadiens
A point-per-game pace is enough to warrant a first-team All-Star selection in its own right, but P.K. Subban has been downright stellar since returning from a contract feud with the Montreal Canadiens. The Habs are one of the surprise teams in the NHL this season and are currently the class of the super-tough Northeast division.
If leading the scoring race from the blue line despite missing training camp and the first few games of the season doesn't warrant a first-team All-Star selection, then nothing does.
First Team Defenseman: Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild
Ryan Suter's tenure with the Minnesota Wild didn't begin well, as the newly acquired defender only posted four points through the first month of the season. He came on a bit in January and has since exploded, helping the Wild make up invaluable ground in the Western Conference playoff race.
Extra props for playing so well under the weight of a zillion-dollar contract. That aside, Suter has still been one of the best defenseman in the NHL this season and would not be out of place on the first All-Star team.
First-Team Goalie: Antti Niemi, San Jose Sharks
Antti Niemi has been the calm center that the San Jose Sharks have revolved around all season. He's been remarkably consistent and was the reason the Sharks stayed afloat while they worked the kinks out.
Now San Jose is one of the hotter teams in the NHL and appears poised to seize one of the eight playoff spots in the Western Conference. Niemi has kept the Sharks in nearly every game in 2013 and has been outstanding in net.
As such, he's the starter for the NHL's first All-Star team.