B/R NHL Roundtable: Players Who Deserve to Be at the 2023 All-Star Game

BR NHL StaffFeatured Columnist IJanuary 11, 2023

B/R NHL Roundtable: Players Who Deserve to Be at the 2023 All-Star Game

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    NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 17:  A general of the 2022 All Star game patch in South Florida during warms up prior to the game between the Florida Panthers and the New Jersey Devils on December 17, 2022 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Rich Graessle/NHLI via Getty Images)
    Rich Graessle/NHLI via Getty Images

    It's hard to argue with the initial selections for the 2023 NHL All-Star Game.

    After all, there's not much of a case to leave the likes of Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid, Cale Makar or Tage Thompson off the teams. And with the unique format of the All-Star Game—three-on-three division-based rosters, with a representative from every NHL team—deserving players are unfortunately left in limbo. A fan vote will decide the final three players on each roster, and competition is fierce.

    With that in mind, this week's B/R NHL Roundtable decided to look at the All-Star Game rosters and choose players who deserve to represent their teams. Will Leon Draisaitl join his Oilers teammate Connor McDavid at FLA Live Arena in Florida on Feb. 4? Should we see a surprise player make the list?

    Got your own opinions about the NHL All-Star Game and the rosters? Don't forget to share your thoughts in the comments section of the app.

Rasmus Dahlin, Buffalo Sabres

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    I realize there is a finite number of spots available on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster, and Tage Thompson is most certainly the deserving Buffalo Sabres player to be selected. But Rasmus Dahlin should be on there too.

    It feels like a no-brainer for the 22-year-old Swede to earn his second straight All-Star Game nod. He's third among defensemen in scoring (44 points) and second in goals (12). On Saturday, he had a five-point game with two goals in an overtime win against the Minnesota Wild and was named the NHL's third star of the week. He was also a first star of the week in October.

    The Sabres are scoring the most goals per game in the league, and in past years, in a different format, they'd probably have three or four guys in the All-Star Game. You could make a case for Alex Tuch or Jeff Skinner, but Dahlin is a legitimate Norris Trophy contender based on his offensive and defensive play this season (it's the offense that gets votes, but shh).

    The numbers back why he should go, but there's also the flash he has in his game. The highlight-reel goals and assists he's had this season are the kind of thing you'd want on hockey's version of an And-1 Mixtape. Don't you want players who can make defenders look silly trying to recover after faking them out of their boots while they slip by and score top-shelf? I know I do, but hey, everyone has different tastes.

    Dahlin may still get voted onto the team, but there's little doubt he deserves to have a working vacation in South Florida this February.

    — Joe Yerdon

David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins

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    BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 13: David Pastrnak #88 of the Boston Bruins arrives before the game against the Philadelphia Flyers at the TD Garden on January 13, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)
    Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images

    Linus Ullmark was the lockiest of locks for the 2023 All-Star Game. At least one goaltender is mandatory for each division, and Ullmark is putting together one heck of a season between the Bruins' pipes, leading the league in wins (22-1-1), save percentage (.938) and goals-against average (1.87), just to name a few. Boston's early success wouldn't have happened without him…

    …or his teammate making it happen on the other end, David Pastrnak.

    In a contract year, Pastrnak's 58 points rank third in the league, and his 32 goals rank second. He stepped up and took care of Boston's primary scoring at the beginning of the season when Brad Marchand, Charlie McAvoy and others were out and folks were doubting the Bruins.

    And of course, with Pasta, it isn't just about the number of goals. It's also the nature of 'em. He's provided his trademark flash all season, the flash that is the whole point of something like the All-Star Game.

    There's always a dilemma with this stuff, though: Would one of the best players in the league who is on pace for career-high numbers want to take a bit of a breather instead of participating in this event? Maybe. But maybe adding another All-Star accolade to his resume will increase Pastrnak's leverage in what is already going to be a deservedly expensive paycheck.

    And we'd be remiss to forget the Miami Vice theme of this event. Just imagine the outfits noted style-rankings icon Pastrnak could cook up throughout the weekend.

    On and off the ice, he's just the type of personality essential to making the league look good at these events. Everyone wins with a Pastrnak All-Star Game appearance—as long as he definitely wants to go.

    — Sara Civian

Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers

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    With due respect to my learned colleagues, there's only one right answer here.

    Only one of our initial snubs is a former Hart Trophy winner.

    Only one of our initial snubs is a former Art Ross Trophy winner.

    And only one of our initial snubs would be leading the NHL in scoring this year—by four points over a guy named Pastrnak—were it not for the video game exploits of another guy named McDavid.

    Yeah, in case you'd missed it, Leon Draisaitl's pretty good.

    Oh sure, his Edmonton Oilers are a dumpster fire compared to Pastrnak's Boston Bruins, and they seem about as likely to repeat last spring's final four run as free-agent signee Jack Campbell is to winning the Vezina Trophy. But that shouldn't be enough to keep the German from a well-deserved plaudit.

    He leads the league in game-winning goals this season, shares the league lead in power-play goals with first-ballot picks McDavid and Thompson and is second in power-play points to only McDavid. And over the longer term, he's scored more overall goals (274) since debuting as a full-timer in 2015-16 than any players not named Alex Ovechkin (334) and Auston Matthews (279).

    But it's not just a statistical thing. And it's not just we sports-writing types.

    Elite NHL game recognizes game too.

    Draisaitl was deemed the league's best passer by his peers in the NHLPA Player Poll for 2021-22 and copped the Ted Lindsay Award as its most outstanding player in another association vote for 2019-20.

    If you lined up the player populace again, there are few who'd warrant higher regard.

    Which means if a fourth All-Star Game isn't in his future, a full recount ought to be.

    — Lyle Fitzsimmons

Filip Hronek, Detroit Red Wings

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    DETROIT, MI - JANUARY 06: Filip Hronek #17 of the Detroit Red Wings turns up ice with the puck against the Florida Panthers during the second period of an NHL game at Little Caesars Arena on January 6, 2023 in Detroit, Michigan. Florida defeated Detroit 3-2. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)
    Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images

    The NHL All-Star Game isn't a meritocracy so much as a popularity contest. And that's OK. The event is a promotional tool. The game's most exciting and entertaining players gather in one place.

    The best representative from the Detroit Red Wings might be top American center Dylan Larkin, who was already selected for the team. Or maybe rising star Lucas Raymond. But if we're discussing which Red Wing is most deserving, neither qualifies.

    It's Filip Hronek. The Czech defenseman has been a quality player for a few years, but at age 25, he is breaking out. He is second on the team with 29 points (seven goals and 22 assists) in 38 games. The Red Wings would likely have been content with those numbers in March, let alone early January. His $4.4M cap hit this season and in 2023-24 has become one of the best values in the NHL.

    Hronek's point total ranks 11th among defensemen. In fact, there is an argument to be made that he belongs in the Norris Trophy discussion; he ranks first among all defensemen in goals above replacement, per Evolving Hockey.

    Detroit's top defenseman—no, not Moritz Seider—may not have the name-brand recognition of some of the league's top players at his position, but he deserves a spot in the All-Star Game. Perhaps an opportunity to participate on the main stage would boost his reputation toward a level his play warrants.

    — Adam Herman

Bo Horvat, Vancouver Canucks

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    The NHL selected Elias Pettersson as the Vancouver Canucks' representative at this year's All-Star Game. In doing so, it passed over one of this season's leading goal scorers in Bo Horvat.

    Pettersson leads the Canucks with 47 points in 37 games. That puts the oft-injured center on pace to eclipse last season's career-best 68 points by a wide margin if he remains healthy.

    Horvat, however, is right behind him with 44 points in 39 games, including a team-leading 29 goals. That puts the 27-year-old center among this season's top-five goal scorers, sitting just five back of the Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid and his league-leading 34.

    At his current rate of production, Horvat could reach a career high of 61 goals. That would make him the first Canuck to reach the 50-goal plateau since Pavel Bure in 1997-98.

    That's a significant achievement for Horvat, whose previous career high was 31 in 2021-22. What's also noteworthy is he's doing it despite the distraction of his contract year as well as the burden of leading a Canucks club struggling to stay in the Western Conference playoff race.

    Perhaps the trade rumors swirling about Horvat explain why he was passed over by the All-Star selection committee. Whatever the reason, he's earned his place in this year's game. It will be up to the fans to rectify that snub when they vote to select the players to fill the three remaining spots on the Pacific Division roster.

    — Lyle Richardson