Cool stories already developing for NHL All-Star Game
Players arrived in Florida on Thursday for the NHL All-Star Game taking place this weekend. Festivities began with interviews and some skills competitions that are set on the beaches of Fort Lauderdale.
Beginning on Friday night with the All-Star Skills airing on ESPN and ESPN+ at 7 pm et, the players will compete in the following events per NHL.com:
- Upper Deck NHL Fastest Skater™
- Great Clips NHL Breakaway Challenge™
- Discover NHL Tendy Tandem™
- Enterprise NHL Splash Shot™
- Honda NHL Accuracy Shooting™
- Chipotle NHL Pitch ‘n Puck™
- GEICO NHL Hardest Shot™
On Saturday starting at 3:00 pm et, the Central and Pacific Division will battle with the winner taking on the victor of the Atlantic vs Metro contest. ABC and ESPN+ will broadcast the games.
Let’s preview the matchups.
Central look to top Pacific
It is a three-on-three dream line for Saturday’s All-Star Game, and the Colorado Avalanche are represented by every piece.
As the luminaries hit the ice at Sunrise, Fla., the Central Division All-Star squad has a notable advantage when facing its Pacific Division foes in the first semifinal. The Central Division has instant chemistry with an all-Avalanche line of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Cale Makar.
“It’ll be a fun weekend with those guys, for sure,” MacKinnon said of stepping on the All-Star stage with his teammates.
Makar was the original representative for the defending Stanley Cup champions, while MacKinnon and Rantanen were added by fan voting.
“It was cool,” Colorado Avalanche forward Mikko Rantanen said shortly after walking through the Beach Festival. “There were a lot of people there, and it was really, really fun. It’s probably going to be even more pumped tomorrow and Saturday when things get rolling here.”NHL.com
They join a Central team that boasts plenty of high-octane talent, such as Jason Robertson (Dallas Stars), Kirill Kaprizov (Minnesota Wild) and Vladimir Tarasenko (St. Louis Blues). Rounding out the squad are defensemen Seth Jones (Chicago Blackhawks) and Josh Morrissey (Winnipeg Jets ), Arizona Coyotes forward Clayton Keller and goaltenders Connor Hellebuyck (Winnipeg) and Juuse Saros (Nashville Predators).
The Pacific Division has no shortage of snipers, starting with the Edmonton Oilers’ dynamic duo of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, who are one-two in the league’s scoring race.
Erik Karlsson of the San Jose Sharks is the lone defenseman for a team that also includes Kevin Fiala (Los Angeles Kings), Bo Horvat (traded from the Vancouver Canucks to the New York Islanders), Nazem Kadri (Calgary Flames), Elias Pettersson (Vancouver), Troy Terry (Anaheim Ducks) and Chandler Stephenson (Vegas Golden Knights). Stephenson is a replacement for the Seattle Kraken’s Matthew Beniers.
Both Pacific goaltenders, Stuart Skinner of the Oilers and Logan Thompson of the Golden Knights, are rookies in an NHL first.
The goalies are both a profile in determination, having worked their way through the ECHL and AHL, and are the biggest surprises this season while their clubs currently are playoff eligible.
Skinner, a 2017 third-round draft pick, earned a full-time NHL job this season and was paramount to Edmonton’s success while Jack Campbell struggled for much of the first half of the season.
Thompson played a full season in the Canadian university ranks following his junior career. He would have been third on the depth chart going into the season, but injuries to Robin Lehner and Laurent Brossoit forced him in net.
“Yeah, it’s been a tough journey, tough road, and I’ve definitely faced a lot of adversity along the way,” Thompson said. “It makes you grateful for where you’re at in your career now.”
The winner of the first semifinal faces the winner between the Metropolitan and Atlantic divisions in the championship final later Saturday.
Atlantic ready to take on Metro
Dreams will become a reality for the Tkachuk brothers at the NHL All-Star Game.
Matthew Tkachuk, who stars for the host Florida Panthers, will finally suit up with his younger brother, Brady, when the Atlantic Division stars face the Metropolitan Division’s best Saturday at Sunrise, Fla.
Brady, captain of the Ottawa Senators, was named to his third All-Star team, but this marks the first time he and his brother have been teammates. It is a perk of last summer’s trade that sent Matthew from the Calgary Flames to Florida.
“As you go on in your career, you dream of playing in the NHL, and then you dream of playing together,” Matthew said. “We always thought it was going to be maybe for Team USA or something like that, but now it comes during one of the biggest weekends in our sport.”
The three-on-three format opens with a clash between the Pacific and Central Divisions clubs, with the winner of that match meeting the Metropolitan-Atlantic victor in the championship final later Saturday.
Matthew Tkachuk will also be joined by Panthers teammate Aleksander Barkov, who replaces injured Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews.
Joining them are Nikita Kucherov (Tampa Bay Lightning), Dylan Larkin, (Detroit Red Wings), Mitch Marner (Toronto), David Pastrnak (Boston Bruins) and Nick Suzuki (Montreal Canadiens). Goaltenders are Linus Ullmark (Boston) and Andrei Vasilevskiy (Tampa Bay).
Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin was named to the NHL All-Star Game on Thursday, replacing injured teammate Tage Thompson. It’s the second All-Star appearance for Dahlin, who was selected last year.
Dahlin, 22, ranks second among defensemen in goals (14) and points (55) in the NHL this season, both of which are career highs. He’s also the Atlantic Division’s only defenseman.
The Metropolitan squad has a trio of New York Rangers in goalie Igor Shesterkin, forward Artemi Panarin and defenseman Adam Fox. It also has plenty of experience in Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals.
Rounding out the squad are Johnny Gaudreau (Columbus Blue Jackets), Kevin Hayes (Philadelphia Flyers), Jack Hughes (New Jersey Devils), Brock Nelson (New York Islanders) Andrei Svechnikov (Carolina Hurricanes) and Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin.
Both Metro goalies are extremely close friends dating back to their time in Russia.
“We try to help each other out,” Shesterkin said of Sorokin. “Not only on the hockey rink but outside too. If something happens we call each other.”
Hayes will also have brotherly motivation as he attends his first All-Star Game. His older brother, Jimmy, died in the summer of 2021.
“It’s a cool situation for me because, not to get emotional, it’s probably the only thing my brother — since he stopped playing hockey — wanted me to accomplish,” Hayes said. “I never honestly thought it would happen, but it did.”
–Field Level Media
–The Daily Goal Horn contributed to this article