Every NHL Team's Most Worthy All-Star Selection so Far in 2014-15
The 2015 All-Star Game voting ballots are available online at NHL.com, so what better time than to check out the top candidate from every team so far this season?
Essentially, it's a popularity contest with fans—at least as far as the starting lineups go—but it's more than goals and assists that determine the most impressive option. There are some stud goaltenders, top defensemen and, of course, the snipers and setup men all deserving of making the cut.
Click ahead to see what every team has to offer in one writer's opinion. Add your choices in the comments section.
Anaheim Ducks: D Sami Vatanen
Corey Perry is the leading goal scorer and Ryan Getzlaf has probably been the most consistent player on the star-studded Anaheim Ducks roster. But it's dynamic defenseman Sami Vatanen who has been the most exciting.
The 23-year-old from Finland who was drafted in the fourth round in 2009 is still a work in progress, but what a fun progression it's been. With five goals and 18 points in 23 games, Vatanen is among the top offensive defensemen in the league and second only to Getzlaf among all Ducks.
He's become a power-play specialist with a dozen points on the man advantage. He still has plenty of room to grow in his own end, but nobody plays defense at the All-Star games anyway.
Arizona Coyotes: D Keith Yandle
That minus-23 rating from a year ago seems like ancient history. Maybe it's the Team USA Olympic snub that's led to better overall play or that he was just a little unlucky last season. Either way, Yandle is back in the conversation as one of the top rearguards in the league.
Tied for the team lead in points, he's got an even rating. By comparison, Oliver Ekman-Larsson is a minus-15 this year after finishing minus-four a year ago.
Yandle is second on the team behind Ekman-Larsson in minutes played per game and has produced 10 of his 16 points on the power play. His biggest competitor for the All-Star nod here would be veteran Shane Doan and youngster Mikkel Boedker, who are tied for the team lead in goals.
Boston Bruins: C Patrice Bergeron
Fellow center Carl Soderberg is deserving of some praise for his incredible performance so far as a secondary scorer and is just one point behind Bergeron for the team lead. But Bergeron quietly—as is his way—continues to do it all for the Bruins.
With David Krejci dealing with a mysterious on-again, off-again injury that, according to MassLive.com's Jen McCaffrey, will not lead to him being shut down for the season, Bergeron has had even more of the pressure to perform on his shoulders.
He's done it well.
Buffalo Sabres: C Zemgus Girgensons
On a team that is running away with last place in the league, one player in particular looks like he will define the club in the not-too-distant future.
Girgensons is one of the more under-the-radar young talents in the NHL, but he won't be for long if the 14th overall pick in the 2012 draft continues to impress in less-than-ideal circumstances in Buffalo.
He is one of only three players with a plus rating, leading the team at plus-five. His 51 hits put him in the top 10 of all NHL centers in terms of physicality. Girgensons also has eight points in the past 10 games, and at 20 years old, he's averaging nearly 18 minutes of ice time per game.
Head coach Ted Nolan is playing Girgensons in every situation.
Calgary Flames: D Mark Giordano
The Calgary Flames captain is playing at a point-per-game pace with six goals and 18 assists in 24 games. He's sitting ninth in NHL scoring and is a plus-12, which puts him in the top seven in the league in that category.
Giordano has gradually grown into an elite defenseman, playing in every situation and excelling. The 31-year-old who went undrafted and worked his way up as a free agent with the Flames has a shorthanded goal, seven power-play points and a game-winner.
His blue-line partner, T.J. Brodie, has been nearly as good, and rookie Johnny Gaudreau is an exciting player to watch, but Giordano has hit his prime and is an early Norris Trophy favorite at this point.
Carolina Hurricanes: C Riley Nash
With injuries to Eric Staal, Nash was forced into a larger role with the Hurricanes. Now that Staal is back, Nash isn't about to take a backseat. The 25-year-old has built on his first full season in the league a year ago.
His 15 points lead the Hurricanes—although Staal has a higher points-per-game average—and he's playing meaningful minutes. He has 10 points in the 14 games that have passed since Staal came back.
Nash, who's essentially filling the gap with Staal's brother Jordan out with a broken leg, deserves to be recognized for his early-season efforts with an appearance at the All-Star Game.
Chicago Blackhawks: RW Patrick Kane
With all due respect to Captain Serious, the Chicago Blackhawks' most well-rounded player, Jonathan Toews is not the player to pick if the Hawks were to get just one representative at the All-Star Game.
Patrick Kane is the most dynamic member of the team, and his skills are suited perfectly to the showcase. Kane has eight goals and 13 assists for 21 points in 22 games this season.
He's been especially good recently, netting four goals and 11 points in his last six games to help the Hawks earn four wins in their last five contests. Head coach Joel Quenneville recently told CSN Chicago's Tracey Myers that a hot Kane is something he is happy to take advantage of.
Colorado Avalanche: D Erik Johnson
Flattened by the Arizona Coyotes' Martin Hanzal in a recent game, the injury to top Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson was a massive blow to the team.
Johnson has been their most consistent player this season as the team has struggled as a group to find its goaltending and scoring footing. He leads the Avs in ice time per game and is on pace for a 48-point season with four goals and 13 points through 22 games so far.
Hopefully he has a speedy recovery from the big hit.
Columbus Blue Jackets: LW Nick Foligno
Sniper Ryan Johansen is in fine form for the Columbus Blue Jackets after holding out for a palatable contract during training camp. His linemate, Nick Foligno, is looking even better.
The 27-year-old leads the Blue Jackets with 10 goals on the season and is second behind Johansen with 21 points in 20 games. Playing like a power forward, Foligno is ninth in the entire league in goals, and his five power-play markers are good for seventh in the NHL.
Plus, as per Detroit Free Press writer George Sipple's tweet, Foligno has the special power of infecting people he fights against.
Dallas Stars: C Tyler Seguin
Tyler Seguin is on such a tear right now, he could eclipse the 60-goal mark this season. His 17 through 22 games so far are tops in the league by a couple of goals over more usual suspects Rick Nash and Steven Stamkos.
The 22-year-old is also third in points, second with three game-winning goals and third in shots with 85. He's been the best player on a line with Jamie Benn and Jason Spezza, leading the team with a plus-six rating as well.
According to the Sportsnet Ticker Twitter account, Seguin has the most points in the NHL since the Olympic break last season.
Detroit Red Wings: C Pavel Datsyuk
There are no shortage of candidates for the Red Wings, with Nicklas Kronwall an underappreciated all-around defenseman, Henrik Zetterberg looking like his back troubles from a year ago are a thing of the past and Gustav Nyquist showing last season's goal-scoring prowess was no fluke.
But it's the magic of Pavel Datsyuk that offers the most attraction in Motown. Despite missing nearly a month of the regular season with a separated shoulder, Datsyuk has been dynamite in the games he's played. He started his season with a six-game point streak, scoring five goals in that stretch, and came back from a four-game absence due to a groin strain to score two goals in his first game back this week.
There may be no one in the league better at working his way through small spaces.
Edmonton Oilers: LW Taylor Hall
Hall's eight goals leads the team, and despite missing time with a knee sprain, he's got 13 points in 17 games to sit third on the Oilers, just a pair of points behind leader Jordan Eberle.
His minus-one rating doesn't look so bad when you compare it to the team's combined minus-118, and he's often the lone bright spot on an awful team.
Florida Panthers: D Aaron Ekblad
The rookie defenseman has been impressive this season. He's playing the fourth-most minutes on average for the Florida Panthers and sits third on the team in points with 11 through his first 20 NHL contests.
Playing alongside veteran Brian Campbell, the 18-year-old Ekblad has taken on some of the league's best competition and hasn't looked out of place very often. He's fifth in rookie scoring and among the top 30 of all NHL defensemen.
The first overall pick in 2014 is having a heck of a freshman season.
Los Angeles Kings: D Drew Doughty
Drew Doughty is on pace for a 46-point season, which would be his best since his second season in the league when he netted 59 in 82 games as a sophomore.
His average ice time is second only to Minnesota Wild workhorse Ryan Suter. He's averaging nearly three-and-a-half minutes per game on the penalty kill and almost four per game on the power play. His 55 Corsi-for percentage is top 20 in the league among defensemen, according to Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com.
Although goaltender Jonathan Quick has been solid, Doughty is being leaned on like never before because of injuries and suspensions on the back end.
Oh, and he's still pulling off rushes like this one.
Minnesota Wild: D Ryan Suter
Suter is the NHL's leading man when it comes to ice time per game with 29:12 per contest. He's top 11 in Corsi-for percentage at 57.3, and his plus-12 rating is good for seventh in the league.
The 29-year-old should be in the Norris Trophy conversation again this year, and he gets the nod because of all he does defensively—which is plenty as a shutdown guy who takes on every team's top lines—but also for his ability to contribute in the transition game.
He has a goal and 11 points in 21 games this year, which would be good for yet another 40-plus-point season.
Montreal Canadiens: G Carey Price
In his four regulation losses, Carey Price has allowed 18 goals against. But in his other 14 games, he's allowed three goals against just four times.
Price is the reason the Montreal Canadiens are sitting in top spot in the league, if only by the slimmest of margins.
He's making his case for the Vezina Trophy and is getting his appropriate kudos on Twitter, too. His .922 save percentage and 2.35 goals-against average aren't eye-popping individual stats, but the 13 wins and 499 saves (fourth most in the NHL) so far this season have been hard not to notice.
Nashville Predators: G Pekka Rinne
Pekka Rinne is currently the runaway Vezina Trophy favorite. He may be at the top of the Hart Trophy list as well.
The 32-year-old Finn took over first place in wins (15) and save percentage (.932) on Thursday night with a 1-0 shutout against the Edmonton Oilers. His 1.86 goals-against average is second best in the NHL as well.
Hey, rookie stud Filip Forsberg has been one of the best stories in the league this year, accumulating 23 points and a plus-18 rating through 20 games. He scored the overtime winner on Thursday. But the Predators are not a point out of first place in the entire league without Rinne being on top of his game.
Forsberg clinched the game against the Oilers, but not before Rinne shut down Jordan Eberle on a penalty shot in the sudden-death period.
New Jersey Devils: LW Michael Cammalleri
The gracefully aging Jaromir Jagr might be an easy pick here, but it's the rejuvenated Michael Cammalleri who is most deserving after proving to the many league general managers who had little to no interest in paying for his services last year at the trade deadline that he's still got game.
The sniper continues to find open spaces to set up from and has fired home eight goals in 16 games this season. Pro rated over an entire year, he'd be on pace for 41.
Adam Henrique has similar numbers, but Cammalleri plays more minutes, takes more shots and has three game-winning goals—tied for second in the league.
New York Islanders: C John Tavares
Brock Nelson is nipping at his heels, and goaltender Jaroslav Halak is on fire with eight straight wins, but John Tavares is a special hockey player whose leadership skills are just as impressive as his on-ice game.
The 24-year-old is in the top 15 in scoring with 21 points in 22 games. He's averaging three shots per contest, and his two game-winners include one from Wednesday night in overtime as the Islanders bested the Washington Capitals.
His shootout-winning skills aren't too shabby, either.
New York Rangers: LW Rick Nash
Nash is bouncing back in a big way with the Rangers this season after a playoff stretch that saw him score just three times and earn 10 points in a long run to the Stanley Cup Final.
The 30-year-old is second in goal scoring with 15 already this year (that puts him on pace for almost 60 over a full season).
Ottawa Senators: D Erik Karlsson
The Ottawa Senators captain is looking at a 62-point season. He leads the Sens in scoring with 16 points in 21 games and has taken the fourth-most shots in the league with 84.
Averaging nearly 28 minutes per game, Karlsson leads the team by a large margin.
Philadelphia Flyers: RW Jakub Voracek
Anyone who says they thought Jakub Voracek would be leaving Claude Giroux in his dust is a liar. Voracek is giving Sidney Crosby a run for his money in the scoring race right now and looking at a nearly 120-point pace so far.
The 25-year-old is almost definitely going to blow his career highs set last season way out of the water, and he's not relying on playmaker Giroux to set him up for his success. Voracek is driving the play. He's been held off the scoresheet just three times so far this season and leads the NHL with 22 assists.
Pittsburgh Penguins: C Sidney Crosby
This is one of the easiest picks of the litter. Sidney Crosby is dominating...again.
Crosby is on pace for more than 120 points, which would be his best statistical season in the NHL. Not bad. He's only got a three-point lead over teammate Evgeni Malkin, which gives you a good indication of why their Pittsburgh Penguins are a point off the league's best record at the moment.
Crosby has been shut out in back to back games just twice this season and in seven games overall. He's had eight multipoint games, including a five-assist outing against the Buffalo Sabres.
San Jose Sharks: C Joe Thornton
Just when you think Jumbo Joe Thornton is going to have a tough year, he gets off to another good start.
Thornton was stripped of the captaincy over the offseason, but he has brushed it off and continues to lead the Sharks. He has 20 points in 24 games. His scoring pace is up, too. He didn't hit seven goals until late January a season ago.
The 35-year-old is a top possession forward with a 58.1 Corsi-for percentage, according to Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com, which is ninth in the league among forwards. He was 13th a year ago with a 58.4 percentage.
St. Louis Blues: RW Vladimir Tarasenko
The line of Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz and Jori Lehtera has become one of the deadliest in the league. Tarasenko is the most thrilling of the group.
He is fourth in goals with 14, 10th in the league with 23 points in 22 games, second in the NHL with a plus-15 rating and fifth in the league with 83 shots.
The 22-year-old has an intensity and work ethic that you don't always see among players his age. There's an edge to him, too. He even got into a bit of a battle with teammate David Backes during a recent practice, according to Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Tampa Bay Lightning: C Steven Stamkos
Seven goals in his last nine games. Twenty points in his past 16 contests. Steven Stamkos is back in his rightful place among the league's best snipers.
His 15 goals are tied for second in the NHL. His 27 points are good for fifth. His six power-play goals are second most in the league and his 78 shots are ninth best.
Stamkos is on pace for a 96-point season, which would be his best since 2012.
Toronto Maple Leafs: RW Phil Kessel
Leo Komarov has been a huge surprise, and Dion Phaneuf is a shocking plus-10. Phil Kessel leading the team in scoring is nothing new, but he's still the most impressive player in a Toronto Maple Leafs uniform.
His 11 goals are sixth most in the NHL. His 23 points put him in the top 10.
Kessel has a pair of game-winners, including one in overtime, and seven power-play points this season.
Vancouver Canucks: RW Radim Vrbata
With all due respect to the Sedin twins Henrik and Daniel, it's the addition of sniper Radim Vrbata that has helped them get back on track this season after the worst year of their careers.
Vrbata is third behind the Sedins with 17 points in 20 games, but he leads the team with 10 goals.
The addition is helping GM Jim Benning earn some praise from the media, including USA Today's Kevin Allen, who suggests the Canucks boss is the favorite for GM of the year.
Washington Capitals: LW Alexander Ovechkin
Love him or loathe him, Alex Ovechkin is great fun to watch. He leads the league in shots with 97 in just 21 games and has 11 goals to show for it at the moment.
He's got three game-winning goals (second most in the NHL) and is 21st in overall points with 20 in 21 games. More than half of his scores have come on the power play.
Nicklas Backstrom has more points, and defenseman Mike Green is having a heck of a bounce-back year, but Ovechkin is still the premier player with the Caps. What makes him especially worthy of All-Star attention is his physical presence. He's second on the team with 69 hits.
Winnipeg Jets: G Michael Hutchinson
There are plenty of hard workers on the team, with the offense spread around fairly well among the top three lines.
Where the exciting development has been taking place, however, is between the pipes. Rookie goaltender Michael Hutchinson is 4-1-1 with a .947 save percentage and 1.50 goals-against average, while veteran starter Ondrej Pavelec has lost four of his last five decisions.
It's early in his takeover, but my vote goes to Hutchinson as the Winnipeg Jets' most worthy player of an All-Star nomination at the moment.
All stats are from NHL.com unless otherwise indicated.