Over the last decade, the National Hockey League All-Star Game has undergone quite a few changes, though this year it’ll once again be a 3-on-3 exhibition when the league’s best head to Tampa on Jan. 27-28 at Amalie Arena. Earlier this week, the final rosters were announced and while the typical names such as Sidney Crosby, Patrick Kane, Claude Giroux and Henrik Lunqvist will be there, 12 players will be making their debut for the 63rd edition, perhaps indicating the league’s next big evolution of talent.
But every year there are always players who get left off the roster and, inevitably, it leads to a debate on who got snubbed and who, perhaps, shouldn’t be a part of the lineup. Just check your Twitter feed – you’ll see exactly what I’m saying. With four teams representing the four divisions this year, and 11 players to a team, there seems to be enough positions to go around and although not everyone can make the team, there are several enormous names that won’t head to Tampa – unless injuries occur.
Here are five players who were snubbed and should have made the team, though it can be a little challenging fitting them into the lineup, since each team must have at least one representative:
JAKUB VORACEK: PHILADELPHIA FLYERS
This might just be the biggest snub on our list, because Voracek is on pace for one of the best seasons of his career, projecting to end the year with about 100 points – and keep in mind, only one player, Connor McDavid, eclipsed the 100-point mark last season. While a case could be made for his teammate, Sean Couturier, who is fourth in the NHL in goals (23) and emerging as arguably the Flyers’ best all-around forward, Voracek has been vital to the team’s offense, which has really lacked depth due to inexperience. He leads the league in assists (43) and his 51 points is currently seventh behind Nikita Kucherov, Nathan McKinnon, Steven Stamkos, Blake Wheeler, Claude Giroux and Jonathan Taveras.
PHIL KESSEL: PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
To find the next snub, all you have to do is make the five hour drive across the state of Pennsylvania, where you’ll find a player who is always an important member of his team. Kessel, a three-time All-Star, leads his team in scoring, with 18 goals and 29 assists thus far this season and has been detrimental to Crosby’s success, which the Penguins’ captain has admitted. In fact, some believe Kessel should’ve gotten the nod over Crosby – who he even manages to top in points per game (1.07) – but, let’s be real, the NHL smartly would never allow that to happen to its poster boy with impressive numbers. At 30-years-old, Kessel will get back to the All-Star Game before he calls it quits.
VLADIMIR TARASENKO: ST. LOUIS BLUES
Blues fans might agree, Tarasenko hasn’t quite gotten off to the start they would’ve hoped for when he signed that $60 million contract a year and a half ago but he’s still dazzled at times this season. Sure, he leads the team in points (44), is on pace to set a career-best in points for the fourth consecutive year and has 19 goals – good for seventh best in the league – but add it all together and he hasn’t outshined newcomer Brayden Schenn – who made the All-Star roster – in the first half of the season. If it’s formatted differently, rather than by division, Tarasenko probably goes to Tampa.
JONATHAN MARCHESSAULT: VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS
You might be asking yourself who this guy is – or trying not to butcher his last name – but don’t be fooled, Marchessault has been one of the biggest reasons for the Golden Knights’ success. The smaller-sized center has produced an impressive opening first half for Vegas, putting up 40 points, 24 of which are assists, on one of the best lines in the league. There’s little arguing he’s been the team’s best player so far this season and I bet you’re now asking yourself why he didn’t make the All-Star Game. Well, the answer is really quite simple: James Neal. Much like Crosby, Neal attracts fans and helps sell the product – even if the left winger does have 11 points less than his Golden Knights teammate.
DYLAN LARKIN: DETROIT RED WINGS
Now, this last one is a little bit of a stretch but hear me out. Through the first 41 games of the season, Larkin has certainly been the most valuable player for the Red Wings. The only problem here is that the forwards chosen for the Atlantic Division – Aleksander Barkov, Jack Eichel, Nikita Kucherov, Brad Marchand, Auston Matthews, Steven Stamkos – are all having much better years than Larkin. Though a case might be made for Marchand but he’s the Bruins’ lone representative. Larkin, who is still only 21-years-old, has 34 points this season – including two game-winning goals – which is the most on the team, plus he’s a lot of fun to watch, but defenseman Mike Green gets the nod, because of a glut of forwards.