Did you know there is less than a month left until the NHL All-Star Game? Of course you didn’t! You’re a fully functioning member of society.
So here’s your something new for the day: the NHL All-Star Game takes place in Nashville this Jan. 31 at 5:00 PM Eastern. And for once in its unremarkable history, the game might be worth tuning in to.
For years, the NHL’s annual showcase has been the least cared about all-star game in the big four sports (which is saying a ton when you stand it next to the embarrassment that is the NFL’s Pro Bowl). Even hardcore hockey fans were lying through their teeth when they said they were excited for the event. Lately, the most interesting aspect of the game was a massive online push by Latvians to get their countryman Zemgus Girgensons voted in.
The internet antics continued this year, with a hoard of people (probably not Latvians) voting for Arizona Coyotes fourth-line grinder John Scott. This week, their persistence was rewarded, as Scott was announced as a captain for the game. Unfortunately for Scott, the All-Star Game’s new format means he’ll be more exposed than ever.
In an effort to make the public care just a little this year, the All-Star Game will be a small tournament of the NHL’s newest crowd-pleaser: 3-on-3 hockey. Each division will send a team of 11 players (six forwards, three defensemen, and two goalies). And, to ensure Scott isn’t the only undeserving member in the game, each team must send at least one representative.
So far, we only know the team captains. (The rest of the rosters will be announced this Wednesday, Jan. 6.) Patrick Kane will lead the Central Division; Alex Ovechkin captains the Metropolitan Division; 43-year-old Jaromir Jagr is in charge of the Atlantic; and Scott is at the helm for the Pacific.
Despite not knowing the make up of every team just yet, we have a pretty good idea of who will be playing in the NHL’s “premiere” event. (Hint: a lot of young guns!) So here are some early odds for the NHL All-Star Weekend.
2016 NHL All-Star Weekend Odds
Odds to win the All-Star 3-on-3 tournament:
- Central Division: 3/2
- Metropolitan Division: 7/3
- Atlantic Division: 4/1
- Pacific Division: 6/1
To no surprise, the best division in hockey is the favorite to claim it all. Not only is the Central home to the NHL’s top-three scorers (Kane, Jamie Benn, and Tyler Seguin), it’s also unfairly stacked at defense (John Klingberg, Shea Weber, Roman Josi, Duncan Keith, Ryan Suter, and Dustin Byfuglien to name a few). The Central will boast the most All-Star snubs thanks to this new format. Goaltending is probably the only area the Central doesn’t dominate, but in a game where goalies typically don’t try, that shouldn’t matter too much.
The Metro is the more likely candidate to come out of the East, with a load of skilled forwards (Ovechkin, John Tavares, Evgeni Malkin, Claude Giroux) and Braden Holtby, this season’s hottest netminder. Given their choice, the Atlantic would probably only use players from four or five of the division’s teams. But stuck having to please the likes of the Maple Leafs, Bruins, and Sabres, they won’t have the best 3-on-3 makeup.
The Pacific brings up the rear, and not only because Scott was appointed captain. The division has also been generally terrible at hockey this season. Still, they could be entertaining to watch as a mix of young players like Johnny Gaudreau and Max Domi team up with the ageless Sedin twins.
While these odds reflect the skill level of each team, motivation will also be a big factor. While the $1 million prize to the winning team is little to the Alex Ovechkins of the world, for John Scott, that would represent a significant chunk of his yearly income.
Odds to be named All-Star Game MVP:
- Shea Weber: 12/5
- John Tavares: 11/2
- Alex Ovechkin: 23/4
- Erik Karlsson: 13/2
- Patrick Kane: 7/1
- Evgeni Malkin: 9/1
- Jamie Benn: 10/1
- Vladimir Tarasenko: 11/1
- Mike Hoffman: 12/1
- Taylor Hall: 12/1
Weber will get the voting boost from playing in front of hometown fans, like Ryan Johansen last year. Of course, after Weber, it’s a wide open race.
Odds to win the Fastest Skater competition:
- Nathan MacKinnon: 5/2
- Blake Wheeler: 16/5
- Taylor Hall: 4/1
- Mike Hoffman: 9/2
- Field: 5/1
If it were a fastest sounding name contest, Wheeler would have this one in the bag. However, MacKinnon, the Avs leading scorer, appears to have the best wheels of the prospective crowd this year.
Odds to win the Hardest Shot competition:
- Shea Weber: 1/7
- Field: 11/2
Weber cranked a 108.5 MPH slapshot last year, blowing out his closest competitor by 7.1 MPH. As long as Weber does the contest again this year, he should take it. There is the slimmest chance Weber doesn’t make the All-Star game, perhaps losing out his spot to D partner Roman Josi. But that’s probably the only way he doesn’t repeat.
Odds the following players make the All-Star Game:
- Pekka Rinne: 10/1
- Jack Eichel: 12/1
- Sidney Crosby: 18/1
- Corey Perry: 20/1
- Rick Nash: 24/1
- Ryan Getzlaf: 26/1
If you’ve tuned out of the NHL for the first half of the season, you might be surprised to hear that the five veterans on this list are likely to miss out on the All-Star festivities. None have been more disappointing than Crosby, though: the two-time Art Ross winner ranks 44th in points and tallied in just two of his team’s first 11 games.
Crosby, Nash, Perry, and Getzlaf have combined for 17 All-Star Game appearances. While name recognition might have been enough for them to get into the game in years prior, fan voting has no say in who makes up the final 40 roster spots. That’s bad news for Rinne: the three-time Vezina finalist should be on the outside looking in despite playing for the host team.
Eichel hasn’t disappointed by any means: he’s actually lived up to his rookie hype. However, his teammates Ryan O’Reilly and Rasmus Ristolainen are more deserving, and there’s no way the Sabres should be sending two players.
(Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)].)
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