After the success of new format for the NHL All-Star game last year, the league has decided to stick with the same formula, one that incorporates captains picking players for each side much like a recess kickball game. Fans get to vote in six players but after that it is up to the coaches and players to determine the other participants and with the event taking place in Ottawa less than three weeks away, the NHL released the selections this week.
The Vancouver Canucks came into Thursday’s announcement with the best record in the Western Conference and because of that, had the most players of any west team selected to participate in the All-Star game. Out of the 36 veterans and 12 rookies open positions, the Canucks had four players that were announced for the big event Jan. 29 – forwards Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Cody Hodgson and rookie defenseman Alexander Edler.
From the Eastern Conference the big winners were the host city itself, Ottawa, who had five players selected from its hometown Senators – forwards Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson, Milan Michalek and defenseman Erik Karlsson, all of whom were voted in by the fans. Rookie forward Colin Greening was also added to the rookie pool. The Ottawa faithful will also get to cheer for current Chicago Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa, who spent his first seven seasons with the Senators after being selected 12th overall in the 1997 Entry Draft.
"It's a huge thing for the fans and media," Hossa told NHL.com. "It's also a fun game to play in, lots of goals and seeing lots of friends on the ice. There will be some guys I know in Ottawa and it's going to be nice to see them."
Hossa is one of three Blackhawks selected, as Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews will once again be participants. He is also one of the league’s top scorers and this year’s event will house the top nine scorers in the league – the Sedin twins, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul, the Philadelphia Flyers’ Claude Giroux, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Steven Stamkos, Hossa, the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Evgeni Malkin and Spezza.
For many players the event is a chance to go back to the area where they grew up and it can make the weekend even more rewarding. For Giroux – who is now making his second straight All-Star Game appearance – it is a chance to head home, after moving to Ottawa with his family as a teenager.
While Giroux has already experienced the fun-filled weekend, several players are making their first ever appearance. In fact, 15 of the veterans selected for the game are first-time participants. And then there are the seasoned All-Star veterans, guys like Calgary Flames forward Jerome Inginla, Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara, and Alfredsson, all of whom will be making their sixth All-Star game appearance.
So who will have to stop all this talent?
Well we hope the goaltenders – the New York Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist, Montreal Canadiens’ Carey Price, Detroit Red Wings’ Jimmy Howard, Los Angeles Kings’ Jonathan Quick and St Louis Blues’ Brian Elliott – are ready for the amount of work they will be forced to do during the showcase event. There will be a good mixture of youth and experience as there is every season and it has all the potential of being another good game, though it will be hard to top the 11-10 victory team Lidstrom had over Team Staal in Carolina.
We are still waiting for the captains and alternate captains to be named but that should happen before the 2012 NHL All-Star Player Fantasy Draft on Jan. 26.