B/R NHL Staff Picks for the Last Men in at the 2022 NHL All-Star Game

Bleacher Report NHL StaffFeatured ColumnistJanuary 16, 2022

B/R NHL Staff Picks for the Last Men in at the 2022 NHL All-Star Game

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    Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images

    OK, NHL fans. Now, it's your turn.

    Sure, there are arguments to be made if the rosters selected for the 2022 NHL All-Star Game were right or not. But the power to choose the final four players on each roster is in the hands that truly matter: the fans of all 32 NHL clubs. Voters have until Monday to decide which candidates have the best credentials to play in Las Vegas in the Last Men In vote.

    Will Nazim Kadri be there (teammate Nathan MacKinnon thinks so)? Is Norris Trophy candidate Roman Josi a viable option? Does Steven Stamkos have a strong case to represent the defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning?

    The B/R NHL's writing staff got together and brought forward their cases for which three players they believed were most deserving of an All-Star nod.

    Disagree with their takes? Submit your thoughts in the comments and get in on the discussion!

Vote Charlie McAvoy: Atlantic Division

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    Corey Sipkin/Associated Press

    The Atlantic Division All-Stars possess a superstar defenseman in Victor Hedman from the Tampa Bay Lightning and a good young blueliner in the Buffalo Sabres' Rasmus Dahlin. However, there's room for another high-caliber rearguard on their roster.

    Charlie McAvoy would be a fine choice as their "Last Man In" The 24-year-old has become an outstanding all-around defenseman worthy of being voted into the All-Star Game by NHL fans.

    McAvoy's performance this season has already garnered some acclaim from the league. He was named the second star of the week ending Nov. 14 after tallying two goals and seven points in four games.

    Overshadowed by superstar teammates such as Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, McAvoy has steadily developed into a star in his own right since his NHL debut with the Bruins in 2017-18. A superb defenseman who plays a strong game at both ends of the ice, the 6'1", 206-pounder has become the anchor of the Bruins blue line.

    With 23 points in 32 games, McAvoy sits fifth among Bruins scorers and is third with 11 power-play points. At his current rate of production, he should easily exceed his career-high of 32 points and could reach the 40-point plateau. He also leads the club in time on ice per game (24:19) and in plus-minus with plus-10.

    McAvoy is not just an offensive threat but also a solid defender. He averages 2:05 in short-handed ice time, leads the Bruins with 58 blocked shots and is among their leaders in hits.

    Given his well-rounded abilities, McAvoy has the making of a future winner of the James Norris Memorial Trophy. He has earned the opportunity to display those skills at the NHL All-Star Game.

    Lyle Richardson

Vote Lucas Raymond: Atlantic Divison

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    There is no question that the NHL got it right when it decided to send Dylan Larkin to the All-Star Game in Las Vegas. He's rebounded after a disappointing season and reemerged as a legit top-line pivot for the Detroit Red Wings.

    He hasn't taken that step forward by himself, however.

    Larkin has spent much of the season flanked by Tyler Bertuzzi and Lucas Raymond. As good as Bertuzzi has been, it's not too difficult to make the case that the rookie should be headed to Nevada too. He cracked the Red Wings roster at just 19 after a shoulder injury sidelined Jakub Vrana during training camp. 

    That audition quickly turned into a full-time role, and it's difficult to imagine this Detroit roster without Raymond in the fold. He's been everything that the organization could have hoped for and then some, showing poise without the puck and able to make an impact even when he's not scoring.

    Some may argue that his recent struggles to find the back of the net should preclude him from the All-Star discussion. While he finally scored on Saturday for the first time since Dec. 1, he went 14 games between lit lamps. That still hasn't affected head coach Jeff Blashill's faith in him or Raymond's confidence, though.

    He had eight assists, worked hard in all three zones and averaged just north of 19 minutes per ice time during the goal-scoring slump.

    "He's done a good job of making plays. He's been on the puck. I haven't seen a drop-off in his play at all," Blashill said earlier this week, according to Ansar Khan of MLive. "He's had chances in multiple games in a row. They just didn't go in. And that's the way it is. This is a hard league to score all the time."

    Raymond is still very much in line to be a Calder Trophy finalist, and an appearance at the All-Star Game would give him a chance to shine on a big stage. This contest is supposed to be fun, and few things are more entertaining than watching the first-year wing and Larkin play with open ice in front of them.

    Franklin Steele 

Vote Nazem Kadri: Central Division

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Yes, it's true. 

    Nazem Kadri is not the league's most popular player.

    His disciplinary record rivals that of nearly any player in the NHL, most recently including an eight-game suspension for an illegal hit last spring that rendered him absent from Colorado's second-round playoff exit.

    So if we're putting together a list of best-behaved players, he's rightfully excluded.

    But there's something else that's true.

    He's one of the league's most prolific offensive talents.

    In fact, no player in the league who's not already on an All-Star roster has more points than Kadri's 48 (13 goals, 35 assists) in 31 games this season. No player not named Kucherov (1.63), McDavid (1.61) or Draisaitl (1.56) has produced more points per game than Kadri's 1.53.

    And no player on the Avalanche—the team that's averaging the most goals per game (4.29), by the way—has outscored him either, though teammates Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar have already punched roster tickets to the event in Las Vegas.

    So if this is a game to showcase the league's best players, particularly in a wide-open, 3-on-3 setting, Kadri belongs there.

    Incidentally, two players behind Kadri among the top-10 scorers—Minnesota's Kirill Kaprizov (42) and San Jose's Timo Meier (39)—are already booked, too, a point that MacKinnon leaned on while suggesting Kadri should make it an Avalanche trio in the desert.

    "It's silly. I don't think every team should send a guy," he said, per The Athletic's Peter Baugh. "... It's an All-Star Game, not a Participation Game."

    Vote early, and vote often.

    —Lyle Fitzsimmons 

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