LOS ANGELES – The rosters for the NHL All-Star Game are brimming with top-shelf talent, though they lack an unusual fan-picked favorite like John Scott.
Rookies Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine were among the 40 players selected Tuesday for the NHL’s 62nd midseason showcase at Staples Center. The Chicago Blackhawks led the league with four players selected for the All-Star weekend, which will be held Jan. 27-29 in Los Angeles.
The game format will again be a 3-on-3 tournament featuring a team from each of the NHL’s four divisions. The players also will compete in a skills competition on Saturday, Jan. 28.
The Pacific Division won the tournament last year, but the weekend was dominated by the unlikely story of Scott. The journeyman enforcer scored two goals and was voted the MVP after an equally improbable grassroots online campaign by fans to vote him into the game as a captain – even after he was traded from Arizona to Montreal and sent to the minors.
The NHL changed its fan voting rules this season to reduce the chances of a similar situation, adding stipulations that players had to be on their team’s roster on Nov. 1 and hadn’t been sent to the minors before Jan. 26. The fans’ eminently logical choices for captains this time around were Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby, Edmonton’s Connor McDavid, Nashville’s P.K. Subban – who has been out with an injury since Dec. 15 – and Montreal goalie Carey Price.
Although some fans were angered by the rule change, major sports leagues are searching for balance between encouraging fan participation in All-Star events and trivializing those showcases with vote manipulation and organized silliness.
Millions of fake accounts on social media could potentially warp fan vote totals for events like the NBA’s upcoming All-Star showcase . Major League Baseball canceled more than 60 million ballots for the 2015 All-Star Game after an elaborate campaign to manipulate the results to favor the Kansas City Royals, among other teams.
The NHL rosters include many veteran stars, including Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, John Tavares, Erik Karlsson and Chicago teammates Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Corey Crawford.
McDavid, the NHL’s 19-year-old leading scorer with 48 points, is headed to his first All-Star Game after missing out on last season with a broken collarbone. Crosby, right behind McDavid with 44 points, incredibly hasn’t played in an All-Star Game since his second NHL season in 2007, missing out on four subsequent selections due to injuries.
The coaches will be Columbus’ John Tortorella, Minnesota’s Bruce Boudreau, San Jose’s Peter DeBoer and Montreal’s Michel Therrien.
The Los Angeles Kings will be represented by forward Jeff Carter and defenseman Drew Doughty in their home rink, while the nearby Anaheim Ducks are sending center Ryan Kesler and defenseman Cam Fowler.
Among the first-time All-Stars is Philadelphia forward Wayne Simmonds, who began his NHL career with Los Angeles before being traded 5 1/2 years ago.
“It’s kind of surreal,” Simmonds said after a morning skate in Buffalo. “It makes me think when I was a young kid watching the All-Star games, and watching all the great players who played in it. To even be mentioned in the same breath as All-Stars in the NHL is pretty special, and it’s a great accomplishment.”
Columbus, which has roared to the top of the overall NHL standings with its recent 16-game winning streak, will send only defenseman Seth Jones and goalie Sergei Bobrovsky to the All-Star Game. Forward Cam Atkinson, tied for eighth in the league with 39 points heading into Tuesday’s games, was not selected.
The top two picks in last summer’s draft also made the game after scoring 21 goals apiece this season. The 19-year-old Matthews is Toronto’s sole representative, becoming the Maple Leafs’ youngest All-Star since Wendel Clark made it 31 years ago.
The Winnipeg Jets are represented solely by Laine, the Finnish teenager with 37 points in his torrid rookie season. Laine is out indefinitely with a concussion, however.
“Patrik Laine is kind of an All-Star kind of player,” Winnipeg’s Mathieu Perreault said. “He makes a difference. He’s that threat to score at all times, which is something we didn’t really have in the past here.”
Although the rosters frequently change due to injury, every team currently has a player representative at the midseason extravaganza, which changed format last season to a four-team tournament of 20-minute games. Each team consists of six forwards, three defensemen and two goalies.
Arizona ended up without a player at last year’s game after Scott was traded to Montreal. The Coyotes will be represented this time by 34-year-old goalie Mike Smith, an All-Star for the first time in his 11-year NHL career.
“I’m just excited to play with the list of players that I am joining,” Smith said. “The best players in the league in a format like that is kind of scary for a goaltender, but it’ll be a lot of fun.”
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