LOS ANGELES — Brayden Point should be in the All-Star Game. There, I said it. He was an All-Star last year and is having an even better season this year.
The Lightning center was not voted a team captain by the fans (not especially surprising), and he was not selected by the Hockey Operations Department (more surprising) for the Atlantic Division team. But he does have another shot to make the Jan. 26 event in San Jose. The NHL has a new "last man in" vote, and Point is on the ballot.
One player from each team is nominated, and fans vote for one in each division to join that team. You can vote up to 10 times a day until 11:59 p.m. Jan. 10 at nhl.com/vote.
"I'm going to go vote right now myself," said Steven Stamkos, who was named to the team Wednesday. "I think for me, I would definitely have him in there. We've all seen what he's done this year."
What Point has done this year is score more than 20 goals and surpass 50 points before the season's midpoint, which was reached with Thursday night's game against the Kings. He has done that while centering the Lightning's shutdown line against opponents' top forwards, such as the Devils' Taylor Hall, the Avalanche's Nathan MacKinnon and the Oilers' Connor McDavid.
He entered Thursday seventh in the league in points, ahead of 18 other forwards who were named All-Stars (including Stamkos). He and the Maple Leafs' Mitch Marner were the only players in the top 10 in points not selected. Points aren't the only way to judge a forward, but Point and Marner are two of the league's top players this year no matter how you determine that (and Marner didn't even make the last-chance ballot).
And therein lies the problem. The All-Star Game is set up with teams representing each division playing a 3-on-3 tournament. Each team must have two goalies, three defensemen and six forwards. Plus, the league includes at least one player from each team.
The Atlantic Division has some incredible forwards. One, Toronto's Auston Matthews, was voted the captain. The others picked by the league besides Stamkos are Tampa Bay's Nikita Kucherov, Toronto's John Tavares, Buffalo's Jack Eichel and Boston's David Pastrnak.
Given the requirement for each team to have a player, it would be hard for the Lightning to have more than two forwards. There's an argument to be made that Point should have made it over Stamkos (something Stamkos may have alluded to with his comment Wednesday that he was surprised by his selection). But Stamkos' name carries more weight, and there's no denying that has an impact.
So now it comes down to one final vote. And that might be a hard one for Point to win. Stamkos also said it'll be tough for him to compete with players from some of the bigger markets (cough, Toronto) in a vote.
There's a reason Matthews was voted the Atlantic captain. It's not just because he's a great player, but also because of the power of Toronto's fan base. That base will now put its power behind Morgan Rielly in the last-man-in vote. Point is also going up against Boston's Patrice Bergeron, another player with a big reputation.
So, if Lightning fans want to see Point in the All-Star Game, they need to get voting.
The Atlantic Division's "last man in" candidates: Lightning F Brayden Point, Bruins F Patrice Bergeron, Sabres F Jeff Skinner, Red Wings F Dylan Larkin, Panthers F Aleksander Barkov, Canadiens D Shea Weber, Senators F Mark Stone, Maple Leafs D Morgan Rielly