The NHL announced the four all-star teams on Thursday and, as always, there’s a healthy debate about the choices made. Just as a fun exercise here in the fantasy corner of ESPN.com, I thought we’d try to showcase what the fantasy version of the all-star squads might look like.
I tried to use the same team-building rules that were apparent in the NHL’s construction of teams, chiefly selecting only 10 players, using at least one player from each team and including between one and three defensemen per squad.
I used players fantasy points per 60 minutes (FPP60) in the default ESPN.com fantasy hockey game to rank the players. I also used a minimum of 20 games played for a player to be eligible to cut out some of the noise.
I thought this would be easier than what the NHL has done and show less room for criticism, but instead I think I made it worse. There was still a lot of internal debate to be had when it came to valuing the different positions against each other, as well as how to squeeze in a player from the bottom-feeding clubs. Either way, here are the fantasy versions of the NHL all-star clubs with some commentary on how I got here.
The bolded players are the ones actually selected by the NHL to the all-star teams.
Brad Marchand (BOS)
Auston Matthews (TOR)
Drake Batherson (OTT)
Dylan Larkin (DET)
Tage Thompson (BUF)
Tyler Toffoli (MTL)
Charlie McAvoy (BOS)
Mackenzie Weegar (FLA)
Jack Campbell (TOR)
Andrei Vasilevskiy (TB)
Because Jack Campbell has been so good this season, and because we must include a player from each franchise, Matthews almost didn’t make the cut for the team he is captaining for the 2022 NHL All-Star Game. Luckily Weegar is actually outperforming Victor Hedman in FPP60 (5.77 to 5.74), so it’s justifiable to slip the Panthers all-around blue line stud into the lineup. Though blocked shots and hits aren’t exactly a feature of all-star games, this is the fantasy version, so they can be rewarded.
While Matthews almost missed the cut, Nathan MacKinnon actually doesn’t make his all-star team, and I think I’m OK with it. We can’t leave out Makar on the blue line, so only one other Avalanche can sneak onto the club and Kadri absolutely deserves it. In fact, after Kadri, Gabriel Landeskog is next in line from the Avs when we run down the list by FPP60, so MacKinnon is out of luck here. Taking it one further, Filip Forsberg is arguably the biggest snub of this whole exercise. He’s ranked third overall in the NHL in FPP60 (after Marchand and Kadri), but because Josi and Saros are locks at their positions, there just isn’t room.
I didn’t think ice time would be a factor for me in selecting these teams, but I did use it here to let Keller take the Arizona Coyotes spot over Travis Boyd. Despite Boyd doing slightly better in FPP60, both players are so far down the list that the four minutes of extra ice time Keller gets per game should be factored in.
I almost made an executive decision here to include Tristan Jarry despite the fact the FPP60 told a different story. I would have justified it by pointing out that Jarry’s crease share for the Penguins (79.3 percent) is a fair bit larger than that of Shesterkin (55.2 percent) and Andersen (68.2 percent). On a different day, I might even leave Fox out and include a third goaltender to reward Jarry. At the end of the day, this division is stacked for fantasy goaltenders, as Shesterkin, Andersen and Jarry rank first, third and fourth in FPP60.
Like goaltending, the defense in this division is just too good to not have three, but they aren’t the same three the NHL selected. While the NHL had Adam Pelech, Zach Werenski and Fox, I went with Dobson, Hamilton and Fox. The three players I selected rank fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively, in FPP60 among defensemen this season.
Aside from Jarry as a snub, Sebastian Aho has a better FPP60 than Jenner and Atkinson, but doesn’t fit with the team rules.
Connor McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon, Alex Ovechkin and Auston Matthews are each representing their division in the NHL All-Star Game.
Speaking of rewarding the hits and blocked shots, Whitecloud gets his day in the sun here. Yes, he plays five minutes fewer per game than most other defensemen, but you can’t argue with him ranking second in the NHL to Makar for FPP60. The defense is actually very straightforward with Whitecloud and Doughty. If Sean Durzi had one more game played he would be next up in the division, and Brayden McNabb is actually next up after that.
This is the division where I had the least crossover with the NHL’s list. Matthew Tkachuk and Mark Stone are arguably getting a snub here, but not by nearly as much as you might think. Tkachuk’s FPP60 (7.32) and Stone’s FPP60 (7.24) are very much in the same ballpark as McCann (7.21) and Terry (7.19). It’s actually Miller (6.66 FPP60) that pushes them out due to the requirement to have someone from every team.
Fantasy Forecaster: Jan. 17 to Jan. 23
Six cancellations but one newly rescheduled game next week means a slightly reduced schedule, but not nearly as bad as the previous few weeks. We do have disparity again, with several teams playing only once or twice and several playing four times. The Toronto Maple Leafs only have one game scheduled, while the Vegas Golden Knights, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames and Anaheim Ducks only have two.
Florida Panthers: The Panthers offense is all healthy again. Sam Bennett and Anthony Duclair are must-adds if you are in the 28 percent or 56 percent of leagues in which they are respectively available. Both are on the second line with Jonathan Huberdeau and Duclair joins the Panthers top power-play unit. They play four games next week and none of their opponents have hot goaltending at the moment.
Ottawa Senators: Some of these COVID-19 layoffs are sneaky. I didn’t even realize that it’s been almost a full month since the last time the Sens top line (Brady Tkachuk, Batherson, Josh Norris) have played together (on Dec. 18). This is more of a reminder to get them in your lineup off the bench than to try to acquire them (all rosted in 88 percent or more). But Batherson, Norris and Tkachuk are all among the top 50 skaters in the NHL for FPP60 and should be locks, even when the Sens don’t have four games like they do next week.
Montreal Canadiens: The last time Jeff Petry scored a goal before Thursday night was May 1, 2021. No, I don’t think we can jump back on board the Petry train after his horrific start to the season, but I do want to highlight that, even in a weird overtime loss, the Habs’ scoresheet was much closer to what we expected a lot of them to be this season: Petry scored a goal, Mike Hoffman had a power-play tally, Cole Caufield had a point and helped lead the team in shots on goal. It’s an obviously small sample, but I feel like it’s one of the first Canadiens box scores we’ve had in a month that weren’t more reflective of their AHL squad than the NHL. I’m watching their next couple outings closer. The Habs have a four-game road trip next week.
Erik Haula, C, Boston Bruins: Tell me a player is sharing the ice exclusively with Taylor Hall and David Pastrnak and I want a piece, regardless of results to date. Haula has been centering a rejuvenated Hall and Pastrnak of late, with both stars putting up their best paces of the season. In the eight games since they’ve been paired up, Haula has had more than 2.0 fantasy points in four contests, and below 1.0 fantasy points in two of them. I’ll take that kind of production at the back end of my roster as is, then hope that the chemistry continues to develop.
Nicolas Aube-Kubel, W, Colorado Avalanche: We may have already seen his two big fantasy games of the season this week, but it’s always worth highlighting someone popping off on the Avalanche. Aube-Kubel picked up two goals against the Kraken on Monday and quickly found himself plugging holes in the top six on Thursday (in which he scored a goal and assist). Gabriel Landeskog probably won’t miss all four games this week, so the prime role for Aube-Kubel is likely short-lived. But file him away with J.T. Compher as potential contributors whenever the Avs are short bodies.
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