NHL All-Star rosters: Last man in choices, snubs and show stealers

The Hockey Central panel reveals which three players are among those to watch at the 2022 NHL All-Star Game.

On Thursday the NHL announced rosters and “Last Man In” choices for the 2022 All-Star Weekend, scheduled to go Feb. 4-5 in Las Vegas — with the skills competition on Friday and the game following on Saturday.

While most of the choices gave been made, fans will now have an opportunity to vote for the “Last Man In” for each division, and have until Jan. 17 to cast their ballots. Here, four Sportsnet writers (Emily Sadler, Sonny Sachdeva, Mike Johnston and Rory Boylen) make a case for their last man in choices, point out a snub from the all-star list, and try to identify which player will steal the show in Vegas.

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Emily Sadler

Last man in choices

Atlantic: Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
Metropolitan: Jake Guentzel, Pittsburgh Penguins
Pacific: Troy Terry, Anaheim Ducks
Central: Nazem Kadri, Colorado Avalanche

Why Nazem Kadri?: Look at the NHL’s points leaderboard and you’ll see three familiar names: Leon Draisaitl. Connor McDavid. Alex Ovechkin.

No. 4 on that list? That’s Nazem Kadri. Or, I should say: All-Star-bound Nazem Kadri. Yeah, that sounds much better — after all, that’s where he belongs this year.

That Kadri’s All-Star consideration comes in the form of a Last Man In campaign just speaks to the level of star power of his Colorado teammates — no All-Star Weekend would be complete without Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar, of course. But considering Kadri’s otherworldly production this season, and his place atop the star-studded Avalanche’s team scoring race, he’s the most obvious choice to join his elite teammates — and the league’s elite scorers — in Vegas. He’s earned it.

Biggest All-Star Snub

No disrespect to Patrice Bergeron or Charlie McAvoy, but where is Brad Marchand on this list? While he plays a villain on TV — and, sure, maybe his outspokenness about the NHL not heading to the Olympic Games might sour the celebration in Vegas — any gathering of the league’s very best players in today’s game should include a seat for Marchand. He’s been the most productive Bruin this year by a wide margin, and in the past week alone has put up a whopping eight goals, including a hat trick Wednesday night that gave him his third straight multi-goal game. That’s All-Star stuff.

Fill in the blank: ______ will steal the show at All-Star Weekend

Cale Makar, by a mile. I’m leaning hard on the Avalanche here considering my Kadri support above, but I can’t help it — watching Colorado is like watching an All-Star Game every night.

The league is better every time Makar steps on the ice. What can I say, even his opponents seem to enjoy sitting back and watching him deke and dangle his way in from the blue line…

Sonny Sachdeva

Last man in choices

Atlantic: Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
Central: Nazem Kadri, Colorado Avalanche
Pacific: J.T. Miller, Vancouver Canucks
Metropolitan: Jake Guentzel, Pittsburgh Penguins

Why Jake Guentzel?: There’s plenty of talent spread throughout the Metro this year, with the Hurricanes, Rangers, Capitals and Penguins all putting together some impressive stretches. Pittsburgh’s primary All-Star selection, Tristan Jarry, is as worthy a choice as any after an unflappable start to the year that has him among the top five in save percentage, goals-against average and shutouts. But if we’re adding one more name from the division, it should be his teammate Jake Guentzel.

The sixth-year winger — who’s quietly followed up his 40-goal season a few years ago with back-to-back point-per-game campaigns — is in the midst of a career year at the moment, with a team-leading 18 goals and 35 points through 29 games this season. More importantly, he’s riding an absurd 18-game point streak, that two-month-long stretch — which ranks among the 40 longest point streaks in NHL history — punctuated by a particularly dominant four-point night in Vancouver (a hat trick, plus a helper) that pushed the Canucks to make the coaching change that’s turned their season around.

In all, Guentzel currently sits tied for 10th in the league in goals, and tied for 23rd in overall scoring. Take away the power-play noise and look at how he’s stacking up at even-strength, though, and those rankings jump to eighth in the league in goals and 11th in scoring. While some might chalk that up solely to the benefit of playing on Sidney Crosby’s wing, over the 18 straight games in which Guentzel’s put up points, his captain’s missed one game and been held pointless six times.

Biggest All-Star Snub

I’ll go back to the Metro for this one as well. The Last Men In voting’s given a chance to plenty of near-All-Stars who’ve earned a shot in the spotlight, but one name that’s been surprisingly left out altogether is Capitals defender John Carlson.

The veteran rearguard’s currently tied for the fifth-most points among all NHL defencemen with 32 through 37 games — a pace that would have him finish around 70 points by the season’s end. Though his bomb from the point is as lethal a power-play weapon as any team in the league has, take away the man-advantage and Carlson’s doing even better. At even-strength, he’s tied with Cale Makar for the second-most points among any NHL defender.

No stranger to strong offensive efforts from the Caps’ back end, Carlson’s actually scoring at the third-best clip of his career so far this year, a bow on top of some solid all-around play from him this season.

Fill in the blank: ______ will steal the show at All-Star Weekend

All-Star Weekend always runs the risk of lacking in excitement, but there figures to be a fair heap of it on the ice with Kirill Kaprizov in the building this time around.

The young Russian has already established himself as one of the most dynamic players in the game just a year and a half into his career on this side of the Atlantic. After impressing with a 51-point effort through 55 games as a rookie, he’s put up a dominant 40 points through just 32 tilts this time around, putting him on track for more than 100 by the year’s end. All-Star-worthy, surely, but also enough to put Kaprizov in conversations about the very top tier of elite big-league scorers.

There are bound to be some fireworks any time he steps on the ice, but we’ll get an added bonus in the form of the ridiculous opportunity to see Kaprizov line up alongside fellow Central Division All-Stars Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar. Bad news for whoever’s on the other side of the sheet if those three jump over the boards.

Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman talk to a lot of people around the hockey world, and then they tell listeners all about what they’ve heard and what they think about it.

Mike Johnston

Last man in choices

Atlantic: Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers
Metropolitan: Jake Guentzel, Pittsburgh Penguins
Central: Seth Jones, Chicago Blackhawks
Pacific: Troy Terry, Anaheim Ducks

Why Troy Terry?: Terry’s 22 Ginos are fifth-most in the league and his 16 even-strength tallies tied for fourth-most. He’s leading the Ducks in points, frequently flashing his offensive flare during a career year. Don’t forget, the 24-year-old can bring that “TJ Sochi” energy, which comes in handy during various skills competition events and breakaway scenarios.

Biggest All-Star Snub

You know one thing guaranteed to make NHL All-Star Weekend more entertaining? An ear-to-ear, toothless Brent Burns smile. The Sharks blueliner is enjoying a bounce-back year, ranking top-10 in points among defencemen and he already has as many assists through 37 games this season as he did in 56 appearances last season. Whether it’s donning a Chewbacca mask or involving his kids in the festivities, Burns is one of the NHL’s veteran stars who truly makes the most of occasions like an all-star weekend.

Fill in the blank: ______ will steal the show at All-Star Weekend

Alexander Ovechkin will steal the show at All-Star Weekend either via memorable performance or simply with a series of entertaining soundbites and moments.

Rory Boylen

Last man in choices

Metropolitan: Jake Guentzel, Pittsburgh Penguins
Central: Jason Robertson, Dallas Stars
Pacific: Matthew Tkachuk, Calgary Flames
Atlantic: Lucas Raymond, Detroit Red Wings

Why Lucas Raymond?: I’m fairly certain that I, as the resident Florida Panthers homer, was given the Atlantic Division for this exercise to wax poetic on Aleksander Barkov’s greatness. And he is great, fully deserving an all-star nod. But we don’t have enough space to fit every deserving candidate and, honestly, I want to celebrate the future of the game at all-star weekend, too. Raymond is the only rookie on any of these lists — how great would it have been to have Trevor Zegras here? — and is the leading freshman scorer in all situations and at even strength. As much as All-Star Weekend is about showcasing the top scorers, it’s also about bringing out the best personalities and the kids who could be the faces of these events in the future. All of this factored into my four Last Man In choices, so as hard as it is for me to “snub” all-star Aleksander Barkov, I want to see what the rookie can do against the best.

Biggest All-Star Snub

Aside from me eschewing Barkov?

The league leader in save percentage, fourth in GAA, tied for sixth in shutouts, and fourth in goals saved above expected, where is New York’s Igor Shesterkin? If we’re picking the Vezina Trophy today, this guy is a top three candidate and maybe even the leader. The Rangers have two all-star locks and it’s wild their goalie and MVP isn’t one of them.

Making this snub more egregious is how it could have been used to get Sidney Crosby to Vegas. Tristan Jarry is a fine and deserving choice for sure (this is no knock on him directly) but if, say, Shesterkin got the nod for the Rangers instead of Chris Kreider, then perhaps Crosby could have got the nod over Jarry for the Pens. Or, at the very least, Guentzel could have been Pittsburgh’s lock and Crosby could be the Last Man In candidate, putting it in the hands of fans to get him there.

I guess I’m cheating and doing a bit of a 2-for-1 here — Shesterkin is my snub and getting him in also would carve a path to getting Crosby there. Yes, Crosby took a bit to get going and is fourth in scoring on his own team, but it’s Sidney freaking Crosby. You find a way to get that man to the game.

Fill in the blank: ______ will steal the show at All-Star Weekend

I have to agree with my esteemed colleague Mike Johnston and choose Alexander Ovechkin here. At 36, he’s the third-oldest player on these all-star rosters and now The Great Geezer has an opportunity to put on a show under Vegas’ bright lights.

Ovechkin last made an all-star appearance in 2018, declining to appear in the past two he was voted in for, citing a need to rest and recover. The fans, who once again voted for him to be here in huge numbers, will be behind Ovechkin and encourage him to bring his most outlandish efforts to entertain.

He’s done it before — who can forget the work he put into the 2009 shootout competition in Montreal? Or him laughing and taking a picture of Phil Kessel, the last pick of the all-star draft in 2011? Or that Ovechkin wanted to be the last pick of the all-star draft in 2015 so that he could win a car, and how he played that up? Who knows how many all-stars the showman has left and, certainly, this will be his only opportunity to play one in the entertainment capital of the world.

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