TAMPA — For the first time in eight years, the Lightning may only have one player at the NHL All-Star Game Jan. 25 in St. Louis. Defenseman Victor Hedman was the only Lightning named to the Atlantic Division roster, his fourth straight.
Things could change. Steven Stamkos is the team’s candidate for NHL’s last men in, a fan vote for one more player in each division that runs Jan. 1-10. Last year, goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy was named a replacement when Montreal’s Carey Price couldn’t play.
But as it stands, the Lightning will only have one player at the All-Star Game for the first time since 2012.
“It’s a little bit different,” Hedman said of going alone. “But hopefully Stammer will get voted in as the last man. There’s only one more Swede, too. And Elias (Pettersson, 21-year-old from Vancouver) is way younger than me.”
Stamkos was that one player. He has only missed one All-Star Game since his rookie year in 2009, and that was when he was hurt in 2017.
Forward Nikita Kucherov has been in each All-Star Game since 2017. He’s the first reigning NHL most valuable player not to make the all-star roster since Price in 2015.
If the Lightning are universally respected as an elite, skilled team, why don’t they have more representatives?
They finally fell victim to the format. With 10 players from each division (before the final fan vote), only two teams can have two players. Last year, it was the Lightning and the Maple Leafs. This year it’s the Leafs and the Bruins.
Lightning players are not at the top of many stat lists this year. No one is in the top 20 in goals. Hedman and Kucherov are in the top 20 in assists, but so are seven others in the Atlantic. Kucherov is 15th in points, but again there are six Atlantic opponents ahead of him.
Why Hedman over Kucherov? He’s perennially one of the best defensemen in the league. And he’s ahead of Kucherov in assists, though not points.
Coach Jon Cooper indicated how the game has changed even since Hedman joined the league 10 years ago. Being a defenseman is no longer just about playing in your own end, and Hedman is good in both.
“He’s just been blessed with that size, speed and skill,” Cooper said. “He can skate. He has really rounded (out as a) pretty-minded offensive defenseman, but his attention to detail in the defensive zone has really elevated his game.”
He’s one of the best defensemen in the league every year and the All-Star Game needs blue liners. There are only eight in the entire game as the rosters stand now. He and Montreal’s Shea Weber are in the Atlantic.
The Lightning don’t even have the case for the biggest snub. Few outside of Boston want to hear this, but Bruins forward Brad Marchand is tied for third in the league with 58 points and definitely deserves to be in the All-Star Game. He isn’t even on the last-men-in ballot.
Contact Diana C. Nearhos at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @dianacnearhos.
NHL All-Star rosters
Forwards: David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins; Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres; Tyler Bertuzzi, Detroit Red Wings; Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers; Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs; Anthony Duclair, Ottawa Senators;
Defense: Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning; Shea Weber, Montreal Canadiens
Goaltenders: Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins; Frederik Andersen, Toronto Maple Leafs
Last Man In candidates: Boston Bruins: Patrice Bergeron; Buffalo Sabres: Rasmus Dahlin; Detroit Red Wings: Dylan Larkin; Florida Panthers: Aleksander Barkov; Montreal Canadiens: Max Domi; Ottawa Senators: Jean-Gabriel Pageau; Tampa Bay Lightning: Steven Stamkos; Toronto Maple Leafs: Mitch Marner
Forwards; Kyle Palmieri, New Jersey Devils; Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders; Artemi Panarin, New York Rangers; Travis Konecny, Philadelphia Flyers; Jake Guentzel, Pittsburgh Penguins
Defense: John Carlson, Washington Capitals; Dougie Hamilton, Carolina Hurricanes; Seth Jones, Columbus Blue Jackets
Goaltenders: Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals; Joonas Korpisalo, Columbus Blue Jackets
Last Man In candidates: Carolina Hurricanes: Teuvo Teravainen;Columbus Blue Jackets: Nick Foligno; New Jersey Devils: Nico Hischier;New York Islanders: Brock Nelson;New York Rangers: Mika Zibanejad; Philadelphia Flyers: Claude Giroux; Pittsburgh Penguins: Kris Letang; Washington Capitals: T.J. Oshie
Forwards: Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche; Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks; Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars; Eric Staal, Minnesota Wild; Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets;Ryan O’Reilly, St. Louis Blues
Defense: Roman Josi, Nashville Predators; Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues
Goaltenders: Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues; Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets
Last Man in candidates: Chicago Blackhawks: Jonathan Toews; Colorado Avalanche: Cale Makar; Dallas Stars: Jamie Benn; Minnesota Wild: Ryan Suter; Nashville Predators: Matt Duchene; St. Louis Blues: David Perron; Winnipeg Jets: Patrik Laine
Forwards: Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers; Jakob Silfverberg, Anaheim Ducks; Matthew Tkachuk, Calgary Flames; Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers; Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings; Logan Couture, San Jose Sharks; Elias Pettersson, Vancouver Canucks
Defense: Mark Giordano, Calgary Flames
Goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights; Darcy Kuemper, Arizona Coyotes
Last Man In candidates: Anaheim Ducks: Ryan Getzlaf ;Arizona Coyotes: Clayton Keller; Calgary Flames: Johnny Gaudreau; Edmonton Oilers: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins; Los Angeles Kings: Drew Doughty; San Jose Sharks: Tomas Hertl; Vancouver Canucks: Quinn Hughes; Vegas Golden Knights: Max Pacioretty.