With the NHL All-Star game being less than a week away, Bleacher Report Featured Columnist and my good friend Liz Brownstein and I decided it would be fun to put our analyst skills to the test in a head-to-head battle. And with the advent of this new format of the All-Star Game, what better way than to hold a mock-draft as though we were Captains in Raleigh ourselves.
So after dragging myself out of bed this morning, I met up with Liz and we proceeded to talk hockey and draft our teams.
Our rules were very similar to those that will be followed in the actual NHL Fantasy Draft that will take place this Friday:
-Teams are composed of 12 forwards, 6 defensemen, and 3 goaltenders, including captains and alternates.
-All 3 goaltenders must be selected by Round 10. All 6 Defensemen must be selected by round 15.
-Since several initially selected players are unable to attend the All-Star Game, we were each allowed to select one forward from the pool of rookies to fill our 12 spots.
-We flipped a coin to determine who would be "Team Lidstrom" and who would be "Team Staal." I was given Team Staal.
-Another coin flip revealed that Liz would make the first selection.
The first three slides will highlight my captain and alternates, and starting in slide 4 I will go through the draft round-by-round.
However, since we have no way of choosing who would actually win this contest ourselves, we leave that to you - our valued readers! Leave a comment on this article, or on Liz's found here and let us know who you think would come out on top if these two teams were to meet up on the ice.
Here is "Team Kyle."
Center, Carolina Hurricanes.
Goals: 23 (8th in NHL)
Assists: 26 (33rd in NHL)
Points: 49 (10th in NHL)
The Carolina Hurricanes are surging up the Eastern Conference standings, and as of this moment sit a single point out of the 8th position. A large amount of credit for that surge is due to their captain and NHL Veteran Eric Staal. The big 6'4" forward is consistently finding the net and playing some of his best hockey this season, and has picked the Hurricanes up and carried them back into the playoff race, something that looked pretty much set until recently.
Additionally, with the game taking place in Raleigh, Staal will no doubt be the fan favorite at this event, which will only serve to help him, both at the All-Star game itself, and possibly for the rest of the season here on out. No question his incredibly accurate shot, brilliant passing ability, and devastating finishing ability will be one of the highlights of the upcoming weekend.
Opponent's Captain: Nick Lidstrom (Defenseman - Detroit Red Wings)
Defenseman, Washington Capitals
Mike Green has been one of the best offensive defensemen in the NHL for the past few years, and can add the title of All-Star Assistant to the list of his many accolades. Known for his extremely impressive scoring prowess and brilliant slap shot, Green has rocked the Southeast Division, specifically the Southeast Division over the past couple years. Two seasons ago he took the NHL by storm, potting 31 goals in 68 games. While he isn't anywhere near that total this year, Green still stands out as one of the best defensemen in the NHL.
Green is a valuable addition to Team Staal, and Team Kyle for his prowess and ability to contend for the title in the Hardest Shot competition in the Super Skills competition, and then for his offensive prowess and ability to put pucks in the net in the All Star Game.
Opponent's Alternate: Patrick Kane (Right Wing - Chicago Blackhawks)
Center - Vancouver Canucks
Goals: 27 (3rd in NHL)
Assists: 20 (81st in NHL)
Points: 47 (13th in NHL)
Ryan Kesler has turned into one of the best young forwards in the NHL, and is one of the players showcasing the incredible talent of the 2003 draft class, much of which will be present at this weekend's All-Star festivities. Kessler's 27 goals are 3rd in the NHL, and he's showing no signs of slowing down. Being one of the primary offensive powerhouse Vancouver Canucks has earned Kessler the title of All-Star Alternate.
Kessler can compete in a wide array of events during the Super Skills competition, and his brilliant finishing ability is going to prove to be an excellent benefit in the high-scoring showcase that is the All-Star Game. Expect Kessler to notch at least one goal, if not a couple on the day, as well as participate in anything from the Elimination Shootout to Accuracy Shooting to any of the events in the Relay Race.
Opponent's Alternate: Martin St. Louis (Right Wing - Tampa Bay Lightning)
Right Wing - Columbus Blue Jackets
Goals: 23 (8th in NHL)
Assists: 20 (81st in NHL)
Points: 43 (23rd in NHL)
I took Rick Nash with my first selection for one very large reason: he always scores in All-Star Games. The first-overall pick of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft has lived up to his billing for the Blue Jackets, who are enjoying yet another stellar season from the lethal scoring Right-Winger. He already has a whopping 23 goals notched this year, and is on pace to come close to the 40-goal plateau yet again. His play has been a large factor behind the surge the Blue Jackets have made to get back into the thick of the incredibly tight Western Playoff race.
Nash's game is incredibly well rounded and he can compete in any number of the events in the Super Skills competition and contend to win it. However his true colors will shine in the All-Star game, where his dazzling stick-handling and impressive shooting skills will be on display. If recent trends continue, expect Nash to score at least once, if not more.
Opponent's Pick: Steven Stamkos (Center - Tampa Bay Lightning)
Goaltender - Carolina Hurricanes
Record: 21-15-5 (2 Shutouts)
There have been certain games this season where I've wondered if Cam Ward is human. The 26-year-old netminder already has 21 wins piled up this season for the Hurricanes, 7th among NHL goaltenders. Additionally, he's the hometown favorite, and will likely have an edge playing in such an elite event in front of his fans.
Honestly, in my mind, there's no going wrong with having Cam Ward in your net. If you can put any sort of a decent defense in front of him he's going to make saves and win you hockey games. That being said, All-Star Games certainly are not known for their defense, and Ward will only be playing one period of this game, but nonetheless that period will be that much more difficult to score in for my team. Ward is without question one of the elite goaltenders of the NHL today, and will likely be a factor for the limited time he's in the game this weekend.
Opponent's Pick: Daniel Sedin (Left Wing - Vancouver Canucks)
Defenseman - Nashville Predators
I will admit this pick was more for his prowess in the Super Skills competition, notably for his absolute cannon of a slapshot, but that being said Weber will be certainly no slouch when it comes to the All-Star Game. Weber has proven himself to be a lethal setup man with brilliant passing skills, something that will be key in a game that relies so heavily on offensive talent. Additionally the big 6'4" defenseman has proven himself on the defensive side of the puck as well, which should make him a great offensive combo when combined with the likes of someone like Mike Green.
Expect to see Shea Weber challenging for the championship in the Hardest Shot competition, something he lost only to Zdeno Chara's 105 MPH cannon last year, and expect Weber to have a couple of assists in the All-Star game with his fantastic puck-moving skills rush-leading abilities.
Opponent's Pick: Dustin Byfuglien (Defense - Atlanta Thrashers)
Defenseman - Boston Bruins
The terrifying giant of the East Coast, Zdeno Chara has tormented the Eastern Conference for several years now, and makes a return trip to the All-Star game just about a week removed from scoring his first NHL hat trick. In addition to having already notched 10 goals again to regain the form some people thought he lost, Zdeno also boasts an extremely impressive +22 rating, showing how NOBODY scores when he's on the ice, unless it's him or one of his teammates.
Like I've said previously, All-Star Games are not known as showcases for elite defensive play, but Zdeno Chara will certainly make a case to prove otherwise. Standing at a whopping 6'9" tall, Chara is a really big obstacle to try to get around, whether it's with a shot, with a pass, or just trying to skate, there's not much you can do to avoid someone who can more or less cover about a quarter of the rink with just his stick and his gigantic arms. Additionally, Chara comes in to defend his crown as the hardest shot in the league, breaking the record in 2009 with a shot that registered just over 105 MPH.
Opponent's Pick: Tim Thomas (Goaltender - Boston Bruins)
Record: 23-5-6 (7 Shutouts)
Left Wing - Washington Capitals
Goals: 19 (19th in NHL)
Assists: 32 (14th in NHL)
Points: 51 (8th in NHL)
Oh, what a pleasant surprise it was for me to get all the way to round 5 and still see one of the best players on the planet still sitting unclaimed on the draft board. Whatever bug was slowing "Alexander the Great" down at the start of this season is more or less gone now, as Ovechkin scored a hat trick last week against the Toronto Maple Leafs. While his offensive numbers are still not what the NHL has grown accustomed to seeing from the Russian phenom (he's never been under 20 goals at the 50-game mark in any season in his NHL career), there's still no denying the talent the Washington Capitals captain possesses.
Ovechkin can easily compete in a number of events at the NHL Super Skills competition, including the always-competitive Accuracy Shooting and Fastest Skater competitions, (and who knows if we'll get another moment like we did in the Breakaway Competition in 2009...) but his true talent will be on display in the All-Star Game, when the relaxed defense he'll be facing will allow him to show off his stick-handling talent and incredible sniping skills. Don't be surprised if Ovechkin, no stranger to being in the spotlight, nets at least one goal in the All-Star Game this weekend, and possibly even adds a couple of assists in addition to a few more highlight reel plays.
Opponent's Pick: Kris Letang (Defense - Pittsburgh Penguins)
Center - Chicago Blackhawks
Goals: 17 (34th in NHL)
Assists: 23 (70th in NHL)
Points: 40 (46th in NHL)
You might be noticing a definite trend to these first few picks of mine: Captains and Alternates. Jonathan Toews is no stranger to this club, having led his Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup last season. His numbers may not be as stellar as they have been in years past, but the 22-year-old certainly has a significant amount of talent that will likely be on display in Raleigh, so much so that the fans voted him as one of the six starting players. His incredible puck control has no doubt been one of his claims to fame, and this will make him a brilliant contender in the Relay Race event of the Skills Competition.
Additionally, Toews will provide a spark of speed to my lineup, making him ideal for this type of a game with relaxed defense. He'll be able to play his game of opening up the ice and stickhandling into high scoring areas, places where he very likely might notch a goal or two. His numbers might be down this year, but do not by any means discount this kid when it comes to his talent on the ice.
Opponent's Pick: Henrik Sedin (Center - Vancouver Canucks)
Defenseman - San Jose Sharks
Dan Boyle is still considered one of the elite offensive-defensemen in the NHL, and his skills are invaluable on the blueline in northern California. His 5 goals may not look all that impressive, but his true talent comes in his setup skills, as demonstrated by his 27 assists. He's got a great point shot, and will be a threat every time he's on the ice in Raleigh.
When paired with someone like the aforementioned Shea Weber or Mike Green, Boyle would be part of a devastating scoring unit that could strike at any moment while on the ice. His skills and ability to not only lead a rush, but finish it off with a goal are something that will be incredibly valuable for whatever team he lands on, and in this simulated game, I'd fully expect him to log at least an assist, if not a couple for Team Kyle.
Opponent's Pick: Henrik Lundquist (Goaltender - New York Rangers)
Record: 21-15-3 (7 Shutouts)
Goaltender - Anaheim Ducks
Record: 25-16-3 (1st in NHL in Wins, 4 Shutouts)
GAA: 2.50 (13th in NHL)
SV%: .926 (3rd in NHL)
Up until about a week before the NHL announced the list of players to compete in the NHL's annual All-Star Game, Jonas Hiller was getting very little attention from the rest of the league, mostly due to his playing on an Anaheim team most Eastern Conference fans haven't seen more than once this season due to their playing most of their games with a 10pm Eastern start time. Then Pierre LeBrun comes along and writes a dazzling article campaigning for Hiller to get a shot at a berth in the All-Star Game. Since then the national media has turned to Jonas Hiller and been absolutely stunned by how skilled this Swiss netminder really is. Despite facing easily the highest number of shots per game, Jonas Hiller has played the most games out of any goaltender in the NHL (46), and leads the NHL in wins with 25.
His statistics in those games have been great as well. Hiller has 4 shutouts in those 46 games played, and still manages the third-best save-percentage in the entire league. All this while facing an average of close to 40 shots per night of work. All of this attention has begun to start murmurs of Jonas Hiller possibly receiving the nod for a Vezina Trophy nomination this year, and night after night Hiller only makes those whispers grow louder. Call me a homer, but I've got to say it's extremely well-deserved as Jonas Hiller has been one of the most underrated, unsung heroes in the entire NHL this season. All of this combined makes Jonas Hiller an excellent choice to add to Team Kyle.
Opponent's Choice: Duncan Keith (Defenseman - Chicago Blackhawks)
Goaltender - Montreal Canadiens
Record: 24-16-5 (2nd in NHL in wins, 4 Shutouts)
GAA: 2.36 (9th in NHL)
SV%: .920 (13th in NHL)
Carey Price's numbers are extremely impressive. In fact in most categories he trails only Jonas Hiller, his teammate here on Team Kyle. Many people were speculating whether he would be able to cope with such a strenuous job of being the starting goaltender night after night in Montreal - one of the most passionate, and likewise brutal fan markets in the league.
However, Price has proven that the Habs made the right decision this offseason in trading away Jaroslav Halak to St. Louis. Price has repaid them with very impressive performances, often times stealing games and guiding the Montreal Canadiens to the 7th position in the East, a spot which if the Habs continue their play, could very likely see them playing when the playoffs come about. Additionally his 24 victories as well as his 2.36 GAA make him a very stellar choice for my third and final goaltender for this mock All-Star Game.
Opponent's Choice: Brad Richards (Center - Dallas Stars)
Defenseman - Phoenix Coyotes
The 24-year-old defenseman was one of the many big surprises from a shocking Phoenix Coyotes team that took the NHL by storm last year, tearing apart the Western Conference on their way to a playoff berth with home-ice advantage. Yandle has picked up right where he left off last season, already one point ahead of his total from last year, and having done so in only 50 games as opposed to the 82 he played last season.
His incredible ability to set up scoring plays has been central to Phoenix's success, and I think it's highly appropriate that he was given the honor of representing the Coyotes this weekend in Raleigh, since he is without question one of the best all-around defensemen in the league. Not only does he have 42 points (one shy of league-leader Lubomir Visnovsky, and having played one fewer game), he is tied for the league lead in assists by defensemen with 35. Another key difference: Yandle is at this All-Star Game, while Visnovsky is not.
Opponent's Choice: Marc-Andre Fleury (Goaltender - Pittsburgh Penguins)
Record: 23-11-2 (2 Shutouts)
Center - Los Angeles Kings
Goals: 16 (43rd in NHL)
Assists: 33 (12th in NHL)
Points: 49 (10th in NHL)
I'll admit it, I may not care too much for the Los Angeles Kings, butI was not about to pass up the chance to pick up Anze Kopitar. The Slovenian-born forward is nothing short of extraordinary, and has been one of the few Los Angeles Kings to be consistently playing well this season. This will be Kopitar's second trip to the NHL All-Star Game, as he played in 2008.
Kopitar is extremely creative both on and off the puck, and possess a brilliant hockey sense. It seems like he's always getting to the right spot on the ice to receive a pass, or is using his explosive speed to terrorize defensemen into opening up holes for his teammates. Every time Kopitar is on the ice, the Kings are a danger to score, and it's that kind of playmaking that will make him stand out at the All-Star Game this weekend. Also, expect him to compete in either the Fastest Skater or Accurate Shot competitions in the Super Skills competition.
Opponent's Pick: Brent Burns (Defeseman - Minnesota Wild)
Defenseman - New York Rangers
Marc Staal has been the anchor on the very young blueline for the New York Rangers. His point totals may not be very high, but they don't reflect just how much the 24-year-old does for the Blueshirts defensively, a fact confirmed by his excellent +12 rating. When Marc Staal is on the ice, it's very difficult to score, as Marc's 6'4" stature make him a very difficult target to get around.
Additionally Marc Staal is a great penalty killer, having 2 shorthanded goals this season. This type of defensive play will be an excellent addition and very key component to my defense which is already front-loaded with heavily-offensive minded guys. Consider pairing him with Zdeno Chara, and you have a defense pair that might not get scored on in an All-Star game. I know my goalies would thank me. Plus, it would probably be interesting to see if there could be any chemistry between him and his older brother Eric, who is the captain of my team.
Opponent's Choice: Corey Perry (Right Wing - Anaheim Ducks)
Left Wing - Chicago Blackhawks
Goals: 26 (5th in NHL)
Assists: 20 (81st in NHL)
Points: 46 (17th in NHL)
I know what you're thinking: how could the leading scorer of the Chicago Blackhawks fall this low in the Fantasy Draft? I'm not sure of an answer to that, my friends, but let's just say for the sake of my fictional All-Star team I'm glad he did. Just about everything that has left Patrick Sharp's stick this season has found the back of the net, which in my mind makes him an excellent addition to my lineup, and at a bargain too coming in such a late round.
Expect Sharp to contend in any number of the events in the Super Skills competition. And also don't be surprised if Sharp comes on on fire and scores a goal, if not multiple in the game on Saturday, since right now he does very little wrong when it comes to scoring.
Opponent's Choice: Claude Giroux (Right Wing - Philadelphia Flyers)
Right wing - Philadelphia Flyers
Goals: 26 (5th in NHL)
Assists: 19 (103rd in NHL)
Points: 45 (23rd in NHL)
Danny Briere has become the face of offensive production in Philadelphia with 26 goals, leading a team that is absolutely stacked offensively with names like Mike Richards, Claude Giroux, and Jeff Carter all gracing their lineup card night after night. At the age of 33, Briere has shown he still has a nose for the net, and you'd be a fool to take your eyes off him for even a second.
Briere is a very sneaky, under-the-radar type of player. While he may not be large at only 5'10" and 179 lbs., the Quebec native will burn you with his impressive speed and his ability to score goals when you give him the puck. His deadly shot has been a nightmare for the rest of the NHL, and is the reason the Philadelphia Flyers are leading the NHL's race for the President's Trophy.
Opponent's Choice: Loui Ericksson (Left Wing - Dallas Stars)
Center - Colorado Avalanche
Goals: 19 (19th in NHL)
Assists: 25 (35th in NHL)
Points: 44 (20th in NHL)
Matt Duchene had an extraordinary breakout year last year, and at the age of 20, is showing no signs of a sophomore slump. His overall totals may not be some of the most impressive in the NHL, but his youthful speed, astounding scoring talent, and lethal stickhandling skills give him the impressions of a budding superstar that the Avalanche might be able to rely on for many years to come.
Youth players excel in these All-Star situations, making Duchene a wonderful candidate in my eyes. Expect to see him contribute a lot offensively, and maybe even create a few highlight reel plays with his stick skills. Additionally, I'd expect to see him competing for Fastest Skater, or in the elimination shootout in the Super Skills competition.
Opponent's Choice: Erik Karlsson (Defenseman - Ottawa Senators)
Left Wing - New Jersey Devils
Goals: 13 (81st in NHL)
Assists: 23 (54th in NHL)
Points: 36 (59th in NHL)
Patrik Elias is the lone representative for the struggling New Jersey Devils at this year's All-Star Game. While he may not be having the best year of his career, he seems to have caught fire again going into this All-Star break, having scored 3 goals in his last two games. The Devils look to be making a surge to get off the bottom of the Eastern Conference, and they're only two points away thanks in large part to the play of this man.
Elias is a veteran of many years in the NHL, and a few All-Star Games himself, so expect his presence on the ice to be one of a man with the experience and knowledge of how the games work. Expect him to pass well, to set up teammates for goals, and to control the play and generate scoring chances with his abilities.
Opponent's Choice: David Backes (Right Wing - St. Louis Blues)
Right Wing - Minnesota Wild
Goals: 14 (68th in NHL)
Assists: 30 (18th in NHL)
Points: 44 (21st in NHL)
The seasoned NHL veteran was given a spot in the NHL All-Star game yesterday afternoon to replace one of the several forwards who are unable to attend this year's All-Star festivities due to injury or other personal reasons. Since signing on with the New York Islanders two summers ago, the Slovak-native winger hasn't exactly lived up to his billing, only notching 18 goals last season. However, he looks to be rebounding this year having a solid 44 points through his first 49 games, and he's stayed healthy all year.
Much like Patrik Elias, expect Havlat to lead the team through his experience in NHL All-Star Games. He can compete in a number of the events in this year's Skills Competition as well, making him a balanced selection.
Opponent's Choice: Phil Kessel (Right Wing - Toronto Maple Leafs)
Center - Colorado Avalanche
Goals: 17 (34th in NHL)
Assists: 25 (36th in NHL)
Points: 42 (30th in NHL)
Paul Stastny is living up to his lineage as the son of a former NHL great. The Canadian-born, American-heritage winger has eclipsed the 20-goal plateau 3 times already in his career, and looks to be well on pace to shatter that landmark again. He was given the chance to represent the United States this past Olympics, showing just how much the 25-year-old has matured.
His explosive speed, dazzling finishing ability, and brilliant hockey sense have made him an extremely balanced center capable of not only scoring goals, but setting them up as well. He will be a threat on the ice no matter who he's paired with. It will not surprise me if he's able to notch a goal during the All-Star Game on Sunday, and possibly add an assist or two to boot. Expect him to contend in the Fastest Skater competitions as well as the Breakaway Challenge with his outstanding stickhandling and finishing capabilities.
Opponent's Choice: Jeff Skinner (Center - Carolina Hurricanes)
So here's how the final rosters panned out:
|Team Kyle||Team Liz|
|Eric Staal||Nicklas Lidstrom|
Martin St. Louis
|Ryan Kesler||Patrick Kane|
|Rick Nash||Steve Stamkos|
|Cam Ward||Daniel Sedin|
|Shea Weber||Dustin Byfuglien|
|Zdeno Chara||Tim Thomas|
|Alexander Ovechkin||Kris Letang|
|Jonathan Toews||Henrik Sedin|
|Dan Boyle||Henrik Lundquist|
|Jonas Hiller||Duncan Keith|
|Carey Price||Brad Richards|
|Keith Yandle||Marc-Andre Fleury|
|Anze Kopitar||Brent Burns|
|Eric Staal||Corey Perry|
|Patrick Sharp||Claude Giroux|
|Matt Duchene||Erik Karlsson|
|Patrik Elias||David Backes|
|Martin Havlat||Phil Kessel|
|Paul Stastny||Jeff Skinner|
At this point it's up to you, dear reader. Once again, leave a comment on either this article or on Liz Brownstein's article found here and let us know who you think would come out on top if these two teams went head-to-head.
Thanks for reading!