Contributed by Steven Bigg
This Friday, for the first time in the history of the NHL All-Star Game, there will be a player draft. Teams led by Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom and Hurricanes captain Eric Staal will choose from a pool of players to decide the fate of the hockey universe. Well, not exactly… but the concept has inspired a lot of talk about this year’s game. It’s a one-off hockey pool in the middle of the NHL season’s dog days, and the latest in a long line of ASG format tweaks (remember the North America versus the World concept?)
Lidstrom will be joined by alternate captains Martin St. Louis and Patrick Kane, and Staal by Ryan Kesler and Mike Green. Each team has to select all three goalies by the end of round 10, and all six defensemen by the end of round 15. This rule is in place to prevent the last few picks being determined by position requirements.
This mock draft is how I envision the draft taking place. There is no exact science for this. Personally, I think they may as well put all the sticks at centre ice and toss them alternately to one side or the other, just like street hockey. So take this with a grain of salt, since we have no way of knowing how the cards will fall.
* Three players are yet to be named, as Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Ales Hemsky are not participating as of press time. As a result, I’ve included my three guesses as the last three picks of the mock draft.
Since a coin will be flipped to determine the first pick, I’ll do the same. Team Lidstrom has won the toss.
Round 1, Pick 1 – Team Lidstrom
Steven Stamkos, F, Tampa Bay – For those who thought last year’s 51 goals and 95 points was an overachievement, check out this year’s 38 goals and 67 points (and counting). With Sidney Crosby out and Martin St. Louis serving as assistant captain to Team Lidstrom, they’ll likely pounce on Stamkos right away.
Round 1, Pick 2 – Team Staal
Alex Ovechkin, F, Washington – When 51 points in 49 games so far is considered a disappointment, things are still pretty good. Despite his big drop-off, the Great 8 is still arguably the most explosive forward in the game.
Round 2, Pick 3 – Team Lidstrom
Daniel Sedin, F, Vancouver – There’s no question that both Sedins are among the NHL’s elite, but Daniel’s a better sniper than Henrik, and the pool’s a little thin on the left side.
Round 2, Pick 4 – Team Staal
Marc-Andre Fleury, G, Pittsburgh – The goalies have to go in the first ten rounds, and Fleury was the top vote getter among netminders. This may be a little high to pick a goalie, but you gotta start somewhere.
Round 3, Pick 5 – Team Lidstrom
Duncan Keith, D, Chicago – Leave it to Lidstrom to break the ice when it comes to D-men. Keith will go first because he’s an ASG vote-in, a defending Cup champion and Olympic gold medalist, and Team Lidstrom alternate captain/Blackhawks teammate Patrick Kane will put in a word.
Round 3, Pick 6 – Team Staal
Zdeno Chara, D, Boston – Staal and Chara don’t like each other, but that may be all the more reason to team up. He’s a monster, and probably the best choice at D.
Round 4, Pick 7 – Team Lidstrom
Carey Price, G, Montreal – Hard to ignore the year he’s having… too bad he’s only available for a third of the game.
Round 4, Pick 8 – Team Staal
Corey Perry, F, Anaheim – Team Staal needs a RW, and Perry’s the best one on the list. Great goal scorer was also an Olympic teammate of Staal’s.
Round 5, Pick 9 – Team Lidstrom
Brad Richards, F, Dallas – If Richards is still available at this point, it’s impossible to leave him on the board any longer. Richards is an offensive machine who may be on pace for a career year with 56 points in 48 games.
Round 5, Pick 10 – Team Staal
Henrik Sedin, F, Vancouver – Same as Richards… if he’s still there, gotta take him. Henrik Sedin’s the straw that stirs the drink for the players around him.
Round 6, Pick 11 – Team Lidstrom
Henrik Lundqvist, G, New York Rangers – Goalie number 2 for Lidstrom is fellow Swede King Henrik.
Round 6, Pick 12 – Team Staal
Tim Thomas, G, Boston – Some will probably have Thomas going higher than Price, Fleury and Lundqvist. As good as he’s been, he’s still number 4 on this writer’s depth chart.
Round 7, Pick 13 – Team Lidstrom
Rick Nash, F, Columbus – Tempting to think that Lidstrom will go with another D-man here, but Nash this late is impossible to pass up. If only he could play with talent like this ALL the time.
Round 7, Pick 14 – Team Staal
Jonathan Toews, F, Chicago – With picking defensemen not urgent just yet, why not solidify up the middle? Adding Toews to Staal, Kesler and Sedin gives them great coverage at the pivot
Round 8, Pick 15 – Team Lidstrom
Dan Boyle, D, San Jose – Now Lidstrom can take another blueliner, and Boyle is still a great offensive one, despite a paltry five goals for the disappointing Sharks.
Round 8, Pick 16 – Team Staal
Shea Weber, D, Nashville – Another Team Canada teammate, with a booming shot and great defensive awareness. I think Weber goes first due to seniority over the rest of the remaining rearguards.
Round 9, Pick 17 – Team Lidstrom
Loui Eriksson, F, Dallas – He’s had a bout with the flu lately, but should still play. Eriksson gives Team Lidstrom the Stamkos/St. Louis and Richards/Eriksson combos up front. Not too shabby.
Round 9, Pick 18 – Team Staal
Dustin Byfuglien, D, Atlanta – Team Staal’s paper thin on the wings, but there’s been enough buzz about Byfuglien that he may not even be available at this point in the draft.
Besides… how can you go wrong with this pool of talent if you wait to pick the remainder of your forwards?
Round 10, Pick 19 – Team Lidstrom
Jonas Hiller, G, Anaheim – Have to take your third goalie here. I was surprised to see Hiller is the only one from the West.
Round 10, Pick 20 – Team Staal
Cam Ward, G, Carolina – Conventional wisdom says Lidstrom picks the West goalie, leaving Staal to pick his teammate.
Round 11, Pick 21 – Team Lidstrom
Tobias Enstrom, D, Atlanta – Really hard to predict what order any of these picks fall, but especially among defensemen, it’s a crapshoot. Enstrom (50 GP, 41 PTS) and Kris Letang (49 GP, 41 PTS) are neck and neck. Enstrom goes here because of a) Lidstrom’s familiarity through Team Sweden; and b) to split Enstrom and Byfuglien up. Editor’s note: Enstrom missed Sunday’s game with a hand injury, leaving his All-Star Game status in doubt.
Round 11, Pick 22 – Team Staal
Kris Letang, D, Pittsburgh – I could be way off base leaving Letang all the way down here, but I dare anyone to accurately predict even HALF of how this is going to play out. I know he was voted in to the ASG, but the only guy he maybe swaps draft positions with (in my mind) is Weber. Regardless, great value this far down.
Round 12, Pick 23 – Team Lidstrom
Anze Kopitar, F, Los Angeles – It’s criminal for a player with Kopitar’s talent to still be on the board this far down. As a result, Team Lidstrom will be all over this one.
Round 12, Pick 24 – Team Staal
Danny Briere, F, Philadelphia – Jarome Iginla’s replacement is actually having a better superior statistical season, and with 25 goals so far, he’ll give Team Staal help on the wings.
Round 13, Pick 25 – Team Lidstrom
Patrick Sharp, F, Chicago – Sharp is following up last year’s career-high 66 points with another stellar campaign. His 25 goals and 45 points in 48 games is not an anomaly. Plus, he’s been known to play all three forward positions.
Round 13, Pick 26 – Team Staal
Phil Kessel, F, Toronto – Not too many people think Kessel should even be playing in the ASG. But he knows how to score, and don’t worry: nobody’s gonna ask him to back-check.
Round 14, Pick 27 – Team Lidstrom
Brent Burns, D, Minnesota – His 14 goals so far is one short of his career high. Health has finally held up enough to fulfill his All-Star expectations.
Round 14, Pick 28 – Team Staal
Marc Staal, D, New York Rangers – Hey Marc: here’s a team with YOUR name all over it. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.
Round 15, Pick 29 – Team Lidstrom
Erik Karlsson, D, Ottawa – In case you’re keeping count, I’ve now got six Swedes on this team, including Lidstrom. That may or may not be a coincidence.
Round 15, Pick 30 – Team Staal
Patrik Elias, F, New Jersey – Another controversial selection. Elias is a minus player (-7) for the first time in his career. However, considering the disaster that the Devils have become, it could be far worse. Yeah, we all know who I’m talking about.
Round 16, Pick 31 – Team Lidstrom
Matt Duchene, F, Colorado – Just goes to show you how deep centre is. This will be the first of many All-Star selections for Duchene. It’s not far-fetched to think he may one day be doing the picking.
Round 16, Pick 32 – Team Staal
Claude Giroux, F, Philadelphia – Breakout year for Philly winger. A total of 46 points (in 49 games) is one short of last year’s career high.
Round 17, Pick 33 – Team Lidstrom
David Backes, F, St. Louis – Gritty forward has 36 points, is plus-14 (minus player the last three years) and has rightfully earned his spot.
*Round 17, Pick 34 – Team Staal
Teemu Selanne, F, Anaheim – Probably Selanne’s last hurrah. He’s got 43 points in 42 games, which at age 68 is pretty impressive.
*Round 18, Pick 35 – Team Lidstrom
Henrik Zetterberg, F, Detroit – With Crosby, Malkin and Hemsky (at minimum) to be replaced, Zetterberg (52 points in 48 games, seventh in league scoring) HAS to be one of them, doesn’t he? If he is, he’ll go MUCH higher than this.
*Round 18, Pick 36 – Team Staal
John Tavares, F, New York Islanders – I’ve heard a lot of speculation about Tavares being named as a replacement. Here’s assuming he is.
I could be totally wrong about all of this – after all, this is new ground for the NHL All-Star Game, and it should be interesting.
I’ll close by saying a few quick things about the Rookies game. Over the last few years, not much attention has been paid to the Rookies matchup, but I think that this year should be an exception. I can’t remember the last time (if ever) there have been so many fantasy-relevant young players taking part. Logan Couture (SJ) and Jeff Skinner (CAR) have had great fantasy seasons so far, and Kevin Shattenkirk (COL), Tyler Ennis (BUF), and Cam Fowler (ANA) have also contributed heavily to their teams. Let’s not forget Taylor Hall (EDM) and Tyler Seguin (BOS). If you get a chance, check out this bumper crop of up-and-coming fantasy talent. Some of these guys could be playing in the big game next year.
Follow Steven Bigg on Twitter at www.twitter.com/stevebigg