Ranking the Biggest Surprises from the 2017 NHL All-Star Game Rosters
The NHL last year finally found an entertaining format for its long-maligned All-Star Game, a three-on-three, round-robin tourney that was both entertaining and somewhat dramatic—and it didn't hurt that the game featured a 6'8" version of "Rudy" in the name of eventual most valuable player John Scott.
The league wisely chose to keep the format the same for this year's gala event, to be held Jan. 29 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Under the rules, each of the four divisions competes in three 20-minute games, with the winners of the first two games facing each other in the final.
Unlike last year, where fans could vote anybody in as a team captain, there will not be another repeat of the John Scott Story. It was a great story, but it would open itself up to becoming a farce before long.
The four captains for this year's game, as voted by the fans, are: Carey Price (Atlantic), Sidney Crosby (Metropolitan), P.K. Subban (Central) and Connor McDavid (Pacific). The remaining 40 players from each division were selected by NHL hockey operations people, with six forwards, three defensemen and two goalies per side—with the proviso that every team in the league have at least one representative.
This particular selection format means there are always going to be some worthy players that are passed over, with their fans shaking their fists at the injustice of it all. This slideshow will list some of the biggest "snubs" but also pay homage to what a pleasant surprise it was for some that deservedly made it.
On with the show, and if you disagree, hit that comment bar and let your voice be heard.
Seth Jones Gets the Nod over Zach Werenski
Somebody was going to get snubbed from the Blue Jackets, and rookie defenseman Zach Werenski probably is your most glaring omission from the Metropolitan roster. Auston Matthews or Patrik Laine are likely to battle for the Calder Trophy, but Werenski is likely to be a finalist. At 19, Werenski is already a top two-way player for the league-leading Blue Jackets.
But you can only take three D-men per division, and it would have been an injustice if Seth Jones had been left off. In this case, the hockey ops people went with the veteran Jones, and it's hard to quibble.
With 18 points in 33 games, a plus-five and good puck-possession stats (50 percent even-strength Corsi), Jones is having a fine season. Then again, so is Werenski (25 points in 39 games, 56.7 even-strength Corsi).
It's probably a safe bet Werenski will make at least one or two All-Star Games of the future.
Frans Nielsen Makes the Cut
Well, someone from the Detroit Red Wings had to go to Los Angeles. The fact that it was Frans Nielsen, and not someone such as Henrik Zetterberg or Thomas Vanek, is a bit of a head-scratcher. Both have posted more points than Nielsen, along with better plus-minus numbers than the minus-12 Nielsen took into Tuesday.
Some other good forwards from the Atlantic Division were left off in favor of Nielsen, including Montreal's' Max Pacioretty (19 goals) and Boston's David Pastrnak (19 goals).
Nielsen, with eight goals, 22 points and his minus-12 in 40 games entering Tuesday, has the least proficient offensive numbers of any forward selected for the game.
No Love for Artemi Panarin?
With all due respect to Captain Serious, Jonathan Toews, it looks a bit silly that his name is on the list as one of the top six Central Division forwards while teammate Artemi Panarin's name isn't.
Toews clearly got the "past reputation" vote this year. The fact is, he's having the worst statistical season of his career, with 18 points in 33 games and even in plus-minus. His even-strength Corsi numbers, while still good at 53.9, are down from the 60.5 he posted two years ago, per Hockey-Reference.com. Panarin has 41 points in 42 games, with a plus-17. He is the player with the most points in the NHL not to have been picked.
But this is why they call it the All-Star Game. The fact is, Toews' name puts more fannies in the seats than the Bread Man's, at least for now.
Wayne Simmonds Finally Gets His Due
Yeah, he's been slumping some of late (one goal in his previous 10 games entering Tuesday) but so have the rest of the Philadelphia Flyers. And while it could be argued that teammates Jakub Voracek and/or Claude Giroux deserve a trip to L.A. as much or more than him, it was nice to see Wayne Simmonds finally get some overdue recognition with his first career All-Star selection.
Simmonds does just so much of the indispensable dirty work around the net and along the boards that makes life easier for teammates. This will be a special day for him, too, as he began his career in Los Angeles.
Taylor Hall Adjusts in New Jersey
With all the disappointment he expressed at having to leave Edmonton, in a shocking offseason trade for Adam Larsson, I wondered what kind of first season Taylor Hall might have with the New Jersey Devils.
As a testament to his talent and professionalism, Hall has not let his personal feelings get in the way of his performance. Sure, he probably needs to score a little more (nine goals his first 32 games), but he had 25 points overall and helped New Jersey get off to a hot start before he missed some time to injury.
Hall should be fun to watch in a three-on-three format. He's my early pick for potential MVP.
Mark Scheifele Gets the Short End of Stick
There's no problem here with the selection of rookie Patrik Laine as the Winnipeg Jets' representative. The dynamic Finn rookie has 21 goals. But Mark Scheifele deserved to be part of the festivities in L.A. He still might go, as Laine is currently out with a concussion and no one knows when he'll be back.
Scheifele would be a no-brainer replacement. He's a big, strong, two-way center who just doesn't get any publicity playing in small-market Winnipeg. Most any coach in the NHL would make room for him in their top six, however.
He posted 37 points in his first 40 games and is coming off a 29-goal season in 2015-16.