The NHL announced the All-Star game participants this afternoon and the Tampa Bay Lightning have two. As expected, Nikita Kucherov made the roster for the third consecutive season. As the leading scorer in the NHL and Hart Trophy candidate, he was a lock. The second player to make the team might be more of surprise.
Prior to the announcement, Brayden Point seemed the most likely player after Kucherov. But instead, Steven Stamkos will be playing for the Atlantic team in the 3v3 tournament. For Stamkos, this is his second consecutive appearance after missing out in 2017 when he suffered a season-ending injury early in the season. Overall, this is his sixth career selection.
While Stamkos has had a great first half of the season and come on strong over the last few weeks, choosing him over Point seems like a reach. Point has outscored Stamkos by nine points (52 to 43) and grades out better in terms of play driving shot metrics.
On paper, this seems like an obvious decision. Making a case for Stamkos over Point based on their play this season is difficult, if not impossible. But perhaps the league went with Stamkos because of his star power compared to the lesser known Point.
But the process isn’t over yet. Fans will be able to vote for one more player in each division. Point will be one of the leading options for the Atlantic, but he’ll have an uphill battle because of playing in a smaller market in Tampa. It will be up to Lightning fans to show up in numbers and out-vote the players from bigger markets like Toronto.
Morgan Rielly will be a strong candidate for the Leafs. With only two defenders currently on the roster, adding him would give the team three full forward lines and three defenders. But if we’re going on true merit, Mark Stone probably deserves it more than Rielly or even Point. He’s currently third in the NHL in WAR. Not having him in the All-Star Game is absurd.
The full rosters for all four divisions are below:
And here are the players eligible for the van vote in the Atlantic:
This seasons’s All-Star Game will be on January 26th at 8PM in San Jose and airs on NBC in the United States. As of now, we know we’ll be seeing at least two Lightning players. Whether or not that becomes three is up to the fans.