The NHL has scrapped the All-Star Weekend Draft (no more sad Ovi!). Instead, there will be a new format in which each division will field a roster of 11 players (six forwards, three defensemen, and two goalies). These teams will play 20 minute "mini games" of 3-on-3 hockey - each Conference squaring off in the first and second "period," followed by the winners playing each other. The winning division will take home $1 million.
Now, there's no word yet (officially) if the league wants every team represented like in years past. We will try to follow that assumption as best we can. With the festivities coming up next month, let's take a look at how the rosters might shake out:
Forwards: Mike Hoffman (Ottawa), David Kreijci (Boston), Ryan O'Reilly (Buffalo), Steven Stamkos (Tampa Bay), Dylan Larkin (Detroit), Patrice Bergeron (Boston)
Defensemen: Erik Karlsson (Ottawa), P.K. Subban (Montreal), Aaron Ekblad (Florida)
Goalies: Carey Price (Montreal), James Reimer (Toronto)
Crying Foul: In this division, perhaps you'd like to see Rasmus Ristolainen rewarded for his play in Buffalo. Victor Hedman is having a bit of a down year overall along with the whole team in Tampa Bay, although he's still producing points. It's also hard to deny Ben Bishop in net, but I needed a roster spot for a Toronto player! Apologies also to Brad Marchand, Mac Pacioretty, Kyle Turris, and Bobby Ryan.
Thoughts: This does not look like a particularly strong division at forward, but we will see plenty of fireworks from the defensemen, even if you sub out Ekblad for Hedman. The goalies, be it some combination of Price and Reimer/Bishop/Luongo, should be strong in net. Then again, this format isn't really for the goalies. It should be a pretty good team, but I don't see them winning the whole tournament.
Forwards: Evgeni Malkin (Pittsburgh), Alex Ovechkin (Washington), Mike Cammalleri (New Jersey), Claude Giroux (Philadelphia), John Tavares (New York Islanders), Scott Hartnell (Columbus)
Defensemen: Justin Faulk (Carolina), John Carlson (Washington), Ryan McDonagh (New York Rangers)
Goalies: Braden Holtby (Washington), Henrik Lundqvist (New York Rangers)
Crying Foul: Well, conspicuously absent is one Sidney Crosby. Oh and Rick Nash isn't here either. Mats Zuccarello is having a superb year for the Rangers as well. Perhaps you swap in Kyle Palmieri for New Jersey's representative. Some "bigger" names on the back end are missing like Kris Letang and Nick Leddy. It is not an overly strong blue line in the division. In net, maybe Neuvirth or Halak have a case?
Thoughts: Columbus sticks out as having to "reach" for their representative. A lot of forwards are having down years when you think of Crosby, Tavares, and Ovechkin. Maybe even Nicklas Backstrom swaps in for Ovi's spot. Still, the two netminders are putting up incredible seasons. There should also be some fun forward combos with this group. I could see the Metro beating the Atlantic, but probably falling to the division that wins the West.
Forwards: Patrick Kane (Chicago), Jamie Benn (Dallas), Tyler Seguin (Dallas), Vladimir Tarasenko (St. Louis), Matt Duchene (Colorado), Blake Wheeler (Winnipeg)
Defensemen: Ryan Suter (Minnesota), Roman Josi (Nashville), John Klingberg (Dallas)
Goalies: Jake Allen (St. Louis), Corey Crawford (Chicago)
Crying Foul: Lots of guys. Look who is left off: Dustin Byfuglien, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Shea Weber, Artemi Panarin, Nathan Mackinnon, Alex Steen, and Bryan Little just to name a few. I haven't even mentioned Toews yet. In net Deban Dubnyk maybe has a case. In short, this division is loaded.
Thoughts: Uh, wow. Ridiculous. So much talent across a lot of teams. Now, Nashville is the host so will they make a push to include Pekka Rinne and/or Shea Weber with Josi? You could sub in Mackinnon for Duchene as Colorado's representative. Prediction for this division: they should win it all (if, you know, the guys play semi-competitively).
Forwards: Taylor Hall (Edmonton), Daniel Sedin (Vancouver), Henrik Sedin (Vancouver), Johnny Gaudreau (Calgary), Joe Pavelski (San Jose), Max Domi (Arizona)
Defensemen: Brent Burns (San Jose), Oliver Ekman-Larsson (Arizona), Sami Vatanen (Anaheim)
Goalies: Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles), Martin Jones (San Jose)
Crying Foul: On the back end, probably Drew Doughty and Alex Edler. Not many other goalies have a strong case unless you're including Ryan Miller because of his name/history. At forward, notably absent are Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf from the Ducks. You could also make cases for Jeff Carter, Anze Kopitar, or Leon Draisaitl but I went with young Domi, who has helped lead the Coyotes into playoff contention in an albeit weak division.
Thoughts: The group of forwards and defensemen should be entertaining, but they will face a stacked Central in the "semi-finals." I mentioned a few potential snubs, but none of those guys are having banner years thus far. Gaudreau and Hall could be fun to watch up front.
Prediction: Metropolitan over the Atlantic. Central over the Pacific.
In the final, Central over the Metropolitan.