NHL All-Star Game 2023: Top Storylines to Watch

Joe TanseyFebruary 3, 2023

NHL All-Star Game 2023: Top Storylines to Watch

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    SUNRISE, FL - JANUARY 28: Boston Bruins right wing David Pastrnak (88) attacks with he puck in the first period during the game between the Boston Bruins and the Florida Panthers on Saturday, January 28, 2023 at FLA Live Arena, Sunrise, Fla. (Photo by Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    The NHL All-Star Game has been controlled by the Metropolitan and Pacific Divisions since the event went to a four-division, three-on-three tournament in 2016.

    Metropolitan and Pacific have three wins each. Metropolitan won last season without Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin, both of whom are back on the roster for Saturday's event inside FLA Live Arena in Sunrise, Florida.

    The two previous champions will be expected to reach the final once again, but fans should look out for the Atlantic Division.

    The host squad, led by David Pastrnak, Matthew Tkachuk and Linus Ullmark, could make the case to be the most well-rounded group in the All-Star Game, and that could help it triumph on home ice.

    The Central Division is also searching for its first victory in the current format. The roster once again has a heavy Colorado Avalanche presence. Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Cale Makar will try to lead Central back to its second straight final.

    All but one of the players participating on Saturday will compete for their current divisions. Bo Horvat will be on the Pacific squad, but he will represent the New York Islanders after his trade from the Vancouver Canucks. His presence on the Pacific roster could be a huge boost to its hopes of winning the event.

Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin Return to ASG

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    WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 07: Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) skate with Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) in the third period on November 7, 2018, at the Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. The Washington Capitals defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins, 2-1.  (Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin are back in the All-Star Game after they both missed Metropolitan's triumph last year.

    Crosby has not been named to the All-Star Game since 2019. Ovechkin was originally part of last season's roster, but he was ruled out because of health and safety protocols.

    The two legends are nearing the end of their careers, and we do not know how many more All-Star Games will be played with one or both on the ice.

    The 37-year-old Ovechkin and 35-year-old Crosby are still capable of leading Metropolitan to victories on their own, but they will get support from some of the younger stars of the game, like Jack Hughes of the New Jersey Devils.

    Crosby, Ovechkin and the Metropolitan Division earned an added boost for Saturday's game, with Johnny Gaudreau now on the roster after he spent six years on the Pacific Division squad while with the Calgary Flames.

    Seeing Crosby, Ovechkin and Gaudreau on the ice together in the three-on-three format would be a cool sight for hockey fans, and it would create a moment that is made for an All-Star Game.

    One other thing to watch is Ovechkin's chase of an All-Star Game MVP. Crosby has one from 2020, but the Russian star is missing that one honor from his lengthy resume.

Will Atlantic or Central Earn First All-Star Win?

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    SUNRISE, FLORIDA - JANUARY 28: Aleksander Barkov #16 of the Florida Panthers skates with the puck against the Boston Bruins at the FLA Live Arena on January 28, 2023 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)
    Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images

    The Atlantic and Central Divisions have been shut out of All-Star victories in the current format by the Metropolitan and Pacific.

    That could change on Saturday because of how loaded both rosters are. Atlantic is an especially promising unit on what is effectively home ice.

    Atlantic has three of the top six point earners on its roster in David Pastrnak, Nikita Kucherov and Matthew Tkachuk. Four of the top six players in points would have been on the Atlantic roster if Tage Thompson was not removed because of an upper-body injury.

    Atlantic also has the best goalie in hockey in Boston's Linus Ullmark on its roster, as well as Andrei Vasilevskiy, who has been one of the top goalies in the sport for quite some time.

    The host division appears to have its best roster on paper to finally take down the Metropolitan and Pacific. Atlantic advanced to the 2018 and 2020 finals and then lost both to Pacific.

    The Central roster is led by three Colorado Avalanche players, and it features three of the best 25-and-under players in the sport in Jason Robertson, Kirill Kaprizov and Clayton Keller.

    Central qualified for the final last season before it fell to Metropolitan. That seemed like the best opportunity yet for Central to win since Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin were absent from the Metropolitan roster.

    Both winless divisions could make strong cases to win Saturday's event, but the edge probably goes to Atlantic because of its top-tier forwards and goalie play.

    Atlantic also owns the edge of playing in front of a home crowd in south Florida, and that could motivate the team, especially Thachuk and Aleksander Barkov from the Panthers, to come away with a victory.

Bo Horvat Playing for Pacific After Trade

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    VANCOUVER, CANADA - JANUARY 27: Bo Horvat #53 of the Vancouver Canucks waits for a face-off during the second period of their NHL game against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Rogers Arena on January 27, 2023 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Derek Cain/Getty Images)
    Derek Cain/Getty Images

    Bo Horvat was named to the Pacific roster as a member of the Vancouver Canucks.

    He was then traded to the New York Islanders, but the NHL ruled he can still compete for Pacific.

    However, the twist is that Horvat will be announced as a New York Islanders player and wear Islanders gear for Friday's skills challenge while representing the Pacific.

    It is a bizarre situation, but it is better than the alternative of not allowing Horvat to participate because he was traded in the same week as the All-Star Game.

    The 27-year-old will play in his second All-Star Game and first since 2017. He could be a huge part of Pacific's success.

    Horvat is eighth on the NHL scoring chart with 31 goals. He is one of three Pacific All-Stars in the top 10 along with the Edmonton pair of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

    The combination of McDavid, Draisaitl and Horvat could propel the Pacific to a victory. No other roster has three top-10 scorers.

    Regardless of the final result, it is nice to see the NHL did the right thing and allowed Horvat to participate and be honored for a fantastic season to date.