by Josh Brewster, Buffalo Sports Page

The NHL announced its all-star rosters for the upcoming game in Tampa, which again features a 3-on-3 format, with interdivisional play. The format, now in its third season, makes for a more competitive All-Star Game. By subtracting the physicality, keeping the ice wide open and allowing the whole game to be focused on skill, the league hit a home run. Selecting players by division makes for some close calls. Let’s take a look at a few notable omissions, notable inclusions, and some who were this close.

Atlantic Division

F Aleksander Barkov, FLA
F Jack Eichel, BUF
F Nikita Kucherov, TBL
F Brad Marchand, BOS
F Auston Matthews, TOR
F Steven Stamkos, TBL (Captain)
D Mike Green, DET
D Victor Hedman, TBL
D Erik Karlsson, OTT
G Carey Price, MTL
G Andrei Vasilevskiy, TBL
Head Coach: Jon Cooper, TBL

Notable Omission: Jon Huberdeau, LW, FLA

He’s the Panthers’ top scoer with 16 goals and 28 assists (17th overall in points), but Alex Barkov chosen instead. That’s a close call.

Notable Omission: Frederik Andersen, G, TOR

If it wasn’t for the fact that the Canadiens have done so poorly, Toronto’s Frederik Andersen would have to be an all-star, not Carey Price, who’s an all-star this season based solely on reputation, not play. Andersen has faced 1,261 shots, the most in the NHL, and his play will certainly prompt the Leafs’ brass to deal for another d-man before the deadline. All eyes on Auston Matthews, but Andersen is just as key this season.

Others this close:

Mark Stone, RW, OTT: 18-24-42 (21st in points)

Morgan Reilly, D, TOR: Defenseman 6th on scoring by D list, but Leafs have only one all-star (Matthews).

Metropolitan Division Roster

F Josh Bailey, NYI
F Sidney Crosby, PIT
F Claude Giroux, PHI
F Taylor Hall, NJD
F Alex Ovechkin, WSH (Captain)
F John Tavares, NYI
D Noah Hanifin, CAR
D Seth Jones, CBJ
D Kris Letang, PIT
G Braden Holtby, WSH
G Henrik Lundqvist, NYR
Head Coach: Barry Trotz, WSH

Notable Omission: Jakub Voracek, RW, PHI

Jakub Voracek, PHI: Leading the NHL with 43 assists, Voracek deserved a slot on the Metro team. Consider that the Blue Jackets sent Voracek with the first round pick that became Sean Coutourier in the Jeff Carter deal. Carter hated Columbus and wanted out immediately. The Jackets ended up with Jack Johnson after all that. Coutourier (23-19-42; 4th overall in goals) was this close to making the Metro, too.

Curious Inclusion: Kris Letang, D, PIT

Letang is an all-star? Not this season. His decision-making has been way off, and his plus/minus is in the bottom 5% of all players. Better choices would have been Nick Leddy of the Islanders or John Carlson of the Caps (2nd overall in scoring by D-men w/35pts.)

Others this close to inclusion:

Shayne Ghostisbehere, PHI: 4th in scoring by Defensemen (32); Zach Werenski, CBJ; Phil Kessel, PIT 12th overall w/47 points; Evgeni Malkin, PIT 17-25-42

Central Division Roster

F Patrick Kane, CHI
F Nathan MacKinnon, COL
F Brayden Schenn, STL
F Tyler Seguin, DAL
F Eric Staal, MIN
F Blake Wheeler, WPG
D John Klingberg, DAL
D Alex Pietrangelo, STL
D P.K. Subban, NSH (Captain)
G Connor Hellebuyck, WPG
G Pekka Rinne, NSH
Head Coach: Peter Laviolette, NSH

Notable Omission: Vladimir Tarasenko, RW, STL

Here’s a tough one but a tribute to the nifty new divisional setup for the all-stars. Tarasenko (19-25-44; 2ND overall in shots with 191). Linemate Brayden Schenn an all-star instead. Good to see D Alex Pietrangelo another pick for the Blues, he’s on the road to a Norris Trophy.

Notable Inclusion: Eric Staal, C, MNW

Career comeback for the longtime Hurricane who went for it with the Rangers and fizzled to the howls of critics. With 19 goals and 18 assists thus far, leading the Wild in the playoff race despite the team’s missing Zach Parise for most of the season, Staal is a great story. Good to see him on the list.

Others this close to inclusion:

Mikko Rantanen, RW, COL: 15-26-41 (24th overall in points). No one misses Matt Duchene in Colorado and Rantanen is just one of many youngsters giving the team a push.

Pacific Division Roster

F Brock Boeser, VAN
F Johnny Gaudreau, CGY
F Anze Kopitar, LAK
F Connor McDavid, EDM*
F James Neal, VGK
F Rickard Rakell, ANA
D Brent Burns, SJS
D Drew Doughty, LAK
D Oliver Ekman-Larsson, ARI
G Marc-Andre Fleury, VGK
G Jonathan Quick, LAK
Head Coach: Gerard Gallant, VGK

Notable Omissions: G John Gibson, ANA; G Mike Smith, CGY

As Calgary extends its win streak to six games and storms up the charts in the Pacific, who’s the MVP? Johnny Gaudreau, maybe…but many nights it’s arguably Smith (19 wins; .922SV%; 2 shutouts). Rookie David Rittich is getting a shot since backup Eddie Lack has struggled. It’s essentially a one-man show and Smith is heads above everyone who’s played for this club over the past decade. Anaheim’s MVP is clearly Gibson (.923SV%; 2.65GAA). While Ryan Miller provides supreme backup help, Gibson’s timeliness isn’t reflected in the stat sheet. LA’s Jon Quick was a shoo-in, but considering the time Marc-Andre Fleury has missed to injury, it’s pure Vegas Fever that puts him in this game ahead of either of these two guys: Smith has faced 1,157 shots (3rd most); Gibson, 1,077 (6th most).

Also: Jon Marchessault, C, VGK (16-24-40: Top scorer on team).

Josh Brewster

Josh Brewster has served as postgame radio host for the Anaheim Ducks since 2006. He appears regularly on Sirius/XM NHL Network Radio and as a correspondent on NHL Network television.



He was the first to produce hockey feature programming for the web with "Hockeytalk Audio Features," and the first to make the leap directly from web broadcasts to the NHL.



Brewster has also written for NHL.com, The Hockey News, The Fourth Period and Hockey Digest. His career in hockey media is profiled in the book, "Living the Hockey Dream" by Brian Kennedy.



He provided color commentary for Team USA at the World University Games for Fox College Sports and has narrated programs on Animal Planet and USA Network.



A native Buffalonian and a graduate of UB, Brewster directed and produced his comedy, "O.J.F.K." at the New Phoenix Theatre in 1999 and has a history as an actor on Buffalo stages.



His radio archive is available at hockeytalkradio.com

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