The Tampa Bay Lightning got a big blow to their blue line Friday when it was announced that defenceman Victor Hedman would miss the next three to six weeks with a lower-body injury. While the news is bad for the Lightning, they’ve banked lots of points and should still be a favourite come playoff time.
But the news does hurt the Atlantic Division all-stars, who will be without one of the league’s best defenders for the 3-on-3 tournament at the end of January.
While replacing a player who is third among all blueliners in scoring is next to impossible, there are some good defencemen out there who could represent the Atlantic during all-star weekend.
Morgan Rielly — Toronto Maple Leafs
Morgan Rielly is in the middle of a career year and has been so good that experts are even suggesting he could have gone to the Olympics. With 31 points in 45 games, he’s only six points away from setting a career high. In fact, Hedman is the only Atlantic defenceman with more points than Rielly. Add in his smooth skating ability and great passing and the Atlantic won’t miss a step.
Mikhail Sergachev — Tampa Bay Lightning
If the NHL wanted to please the local crowd, Mikhail Sergachev would be a great choice. He’s only a rookie, but through his first 44 games he’s been a huge surprise after the Lightning acquired him in an off-season trade with Montreal. With 26 points he’s fourth among defencemen in scoring in the Atlantic and his eight goals are tied for fourth among all D-men.
Zdeno Chara — Boston Bruins
Who wouldn’t want to see 40-year-old Zdeno Chara blast some pucks in the hardest shot contest one last time? With Hedman’s injury, it could happen. Chara is obviously far from his prime, with only three goals and 11 points this season. And he probably wouldn’t be the most useful player in a full 3-on-3 game. But it would be cool to see him in the skills competition, especially with Shea Weber missing the fun with an injury.
Charlie McAvoy — Boston Bruins
If Chara’s unavailable, the Bruins have another defenceman ready to go. Charlie McAvoy may not be the flashiest defenceman out there, but he’s quickly become the most reliable blueliner in Boston. With 21 points, including 16 assists, he’s still got a great offensive mind to go with his reliable defence. If he doesn’t make it to this all-star game, there will be plenty of other chances for him throughout his career.