Los Angeles is home to the stars. This weekend, all eyes will be on the NHL’s finest, as the league’s All-Stars Game takes place at the Staples Center.
The game will see a similar format to the one used last year, pitting two divisions against each other in a three-on-three semifinal with the winners advancing to the final. A slight change comes in that the team that wins the skills competition on Saturday gets to choose their first opponent on Sunday and if they want to play in the first or second game.
Both the first and second overall selections from the 2016 NHL draft have been tabbed to represent their divisions, as Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine were the only members of their teams selected to participate in the event. The two teens are tied for second in rookie points, with Laine playing two less games after missing time with an injury.
For fans in LA, some familiar faces will return to a place they called home for the event. Wayne Simmonds will represent the Philadelphia Flyers as he makes his first All-Star Game appearance. The winger spent three seasons with the Kings before ultimately being dealt for Mike Richards in 2011. Division rival Martin Jones also returns to his former home rink, as he’ll be one of the two goalies for the Pacific Division at the event.
By and large, the NHL’s iteration of an All-Star Game hasn’t been a competitive affair. With the old formats, the games were usually high-scoring affairs with players lackadaisically skating around the ice which may explain why oddsmakers at My Top Sportsbooks have given all four divisions 3/1 odds to win. However, those selected to take the ice this weekend may have a little more pep in their step, as the teams will compete for a $1 million dollar prize, something the league introduced last year. Although there are several players competing in the All-Star game making over $10 million in salary this year, you can be sure the games will at least be slightly more competitive with over $90,000 on the line for each winning player.
So with cash on the line, who’s the favorite this weekend?
Smart money would be on the Metropolitan Division, headlined by three of the biggest names in the entire hockey universe – Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Alexander Ovechkin. Crosby and Malkin are not only teammates in Pittsburgh, the reigning Stanley Cup champions, but are tied for second in scoring this season. Adding even more punch to their unit will be Sergei Bobrovsky and Braden Holtby in net, whom are 3rd and 4th in the league respectively in save percentage.
The Central Division sees four members of the Chicago Blackhawks on their roster, the most representatives from any one team. Captained the the eccentric PK Subban, this squad is stacked from top to bottom, with elite talents like Patrick Kane and Vladimir Tarasenko up front and rock-solid defenseman Ryan Suter patrolling the blueline, plus the league’s best goalie this year in Devan Dubnyk.
If there was any roster that looked whatsoever weak, it’d have to be the Atlantic. Outside of Matthews, the forward group lacks true star power. Players like Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo, and Vincent Trocheck are good players, but are they names that pop in your head when you think of the word All-Star? Didn’t think so.
Finally, the Pacific Division may get a slight boost, if for nothing more than having the least travel to do. Los Angeles Kings center Jeff Carter and defenseman Drew Doughty will play in front of their home fans. Joining that duo will be the likes of Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and San Jose’s Brent Burns, who are the highest scoring player and defenseman, respectively.
Full rosters can be found here. Let us know who you think takes home the big cash prize this weekend by leaving a comment below.
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