Flames Have 2023 All-Star Candidates in Kadri, Zadorov & Toffoli

In 2021-22 the Calgary Flames finished as one of the best teams in the NHL. The franchise won the Pacific Division by seven points and produced two of the top ten scorers, with Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk finishing third and eighth amongst their peers. In the second round, they eventually lost to their rivals, the Edmonton Oilers, but through a wild offseason with quite the roster overhaul, the Flames vowed to be back in 2022-23 even better.

So far, the team has struggled to duplicate the success from the previous season and currently sits in fourth place in the division. Now, it is not all gloom and doom in Calgary since Nazem Kadri has impressed after coming to town as a free agent. He was the team’s leading scorer for the first month and a half, recently hitting a cold streak to concede the lead to Elias Lindholm. Moreover, another player that is turning heads with his outstanding play is rearguard Nikita Zadorov. He may not be the highest-scoring defenceman, but he leads the team with a plus-9 plus/minus rating. 

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The upcoming NHL All-Star will be in BB&T Center in Miami. (Brad Barr-US PRESSWIRE)

The NHL will head to Florida on Feb. 4, 2023, for the annual All-Star Game. Last year, the Flames’ lone representative was Gaudreau, who earned his sixth trip to the midseason classic. Right now, the Flames are different from before, and despite being filled with a handful of all-star caliber players, it will be pretty tricky for the league to select the best player from the current lineup. 

Related: History of NHL All-Star Game Format Changes

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Fortunately for all the players who hope to lace them up in Miami later this season, there is still time for them to find their game. After almost two months of hockey, here are the leading candidates for the role.

Nazem Kadri

Kadri made his NHL debut during the 2009-10 season as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs. In 14 seasons, which includes a three-year stint with the Colorado Avalanche that resulted in a Stanley Cup championship in 2022, he has appeared in only one All-Star Game. On top of winning it all last season, he joined fellow Avalanche teammate Cale Makar in Las Vegas for the festivities. 

Nazem Kadri Calgary Flames
Nazem Kadri, Calgary Flames (Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Many fans remember Kadri from his ten seasons with the Maple Leafs; however, he became an instrumental part of the Avalanche’s drive to the Cup by setting a career-high 87 points in 71 games. He didn’t stop producing in the playoffs either, finishing with another 15 points in 16 games. In the Conference Final, he took a nasty hit from Evander Kane, which many thought changed the course of the series. Eventually, Kadri came back to score critical goals down the stretch. 

Kadri is the best option to represent the Flames in Florida because he seems right at home with his new team, scoring at least one point in his first six games. Despite being a minus-6, he’s got eight goals in 20 games and seven helpers for 15 points. Furthermore, he has eight power-play points, the best total on the team. Although he’s only got six points in the last 13 games, every time he’s on the ice, opponents need to treat him like the Flames’ most significant threat, who can strike at any time. 

Nikita Zadorov

Zadorov is one of the underdog choices to represent the Flames at the All-Star Game. It is a shame that a skilled defenceman like him will most likely not get his day in the sun, even though fans know what he brings to the table night in and night out. 

Through 20 games, he’s got nine points, with four goals and two assists, which don’t lead the team in any category. However, Zadorov does have 29 penalty minutes (team-high) and a plus-8 rating, which is the best mark on the team by a wide margin. Only seven players have a plus rating, and the only other two defencemen in the same class as Zadorov are Michael Stone (plus-6) and MacKenzie Weegar (plus-2). Last year’s team leader, Rasmus Andersson, is already minus-5 after finishing plus-30 in 2021-22. 

Nikita Zadorov Calgary Flames
Nikita Zadorov, Calgary Flames (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The NHL All-Star Game is a place for superstars to showcase their skills in front of the world. Most of the time, the players selected are the game’s most recognizable names since the executives aim for high TV ratings. Fans who follow the Flames know the excitement Zadorov can bring on any shift, especially when he goes for a break to the net. He’s got the skill and knowledge to play amongst the league’s elite, and his style fits the current 3-on-3 All-Star Game format. It will be a shame he doesn’t get the call during the selection process.

Tyler Toffoli

As mentioned, the Flames have had their fair share of struggles this season. Whether it is new players adapting to new systems or veterans failing to produce like in previous seasons, it is hard to pick out who is an All-Star and who isn’t. That’s one way to describe Tyler Toffoli’s season so far. 

A two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Los Angeles Kings, Toffoli is in his first full season with the Flames and has already scored 14 points through 21 games. Despite closing in on 200 goals and surpassing 400 points recently, he has never had the honor of being selected for an All-Star Game. If he keeps producing and capitalizes on his team-leading 65 shots, he could find himself in the conversation of who goes to Florida and who doesn’t.

Tyler Toffoli Calgary Flames
Tyler Toffoli, Calgary Flames (Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Being selected for the game in Florida would be a nice feather in the cap of a player who routinely scores 20 goals a year. His reputation for being a champion is well-established; however, it may be time to add an All-Star selection to his resume. He may not be a household name like Kadri, but he is known across the league for his days with the Kings and short stints in Vancouver and Montreal. 

Toffoli would make a solid selection to represent the Flames at the All-Star Game and is a veteran who deserves the honor at some point in his career. The right-handed winger has a knack for scoring timely goals, so it would only be fitting to see him score a one-timer from the circle in the mini-tournament format. 

What About Other Flames Players?

Jonathan Huberdeau may be signed to the largest contract in Flames history but has yet to find the scoring torch he had when he was a member of the Florida Panthers. The expectations are high for his performance in year one, and right now, he is one of the focal points of criticism from fans and media about the team’s performance to date. Although the game will be in his former team’s home arena, unless he picks up the pace and becomes the 115-point player from 2021-22, he would be a long shot to represent the Flames, despite his name recognition across the league. 

Last year, Jacob Markstrom was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy and led the league in shutouts. He set a career-high with 37 wins and carried the Flames to the second round of the playoffs. However, since dropping four straight to the Edmonton Oilers, Markstrom hasn’t been the same. In 2022-23, he has a goals-against average over three and a save percentage under .900, numbers he hasn’t seen on his hockey card in ten seasons. He’s given up some very soft goals through 16 games, with a handful coming at the worst times, killing momentum for his team. Should Markstrom rebound and find his game, he would be one of the longest shots to make his second All-Star Game appearance since several other talented goalies in the division will get the call before he does.

Jacob Markstrom Calgary Flames
Jacob Markstrom, Calgary Flames (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

One of the Flames’ youngest players, 23-year-old Adam Ruzica, is poised to have a breakout season should he stay with the big club. After suiting up for ten games in 2022-23, he’s tallied eight points with four goals and four assists. Although he would never get enough attention to be an All-Star Game player, the talented 6-foot-4 center could qualify for the rookie competitions and mingle amongst the other bright stars.

Related: Flames’ Issues This Season All Stem From Goaltending

The Flames may only be a quarter of the way through their regular season; however, the All-Star Game is getting closer, and the eyes of NHL hockey operations are always watching. The team is guaranteed to have a player in Florida; however, who truly deserves the honor has yet to be determined.

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