One of the more unique features of this year’s NHL All-Star Game is the introduction of a fantasy draft element to the proceedings. The draft will be conducted the Friday before the game, and will involve two player-captains (and their two alternates) each selecting 18 players to fill out their roster.
With this variable added to the All-Star equation, writers across the internet have been offering their takes on how the teams will shake out. Will Ovechkin and Crosby be paired together? Will the Sedin twins be forced to endure life apart for 60 minutes? These questions will all be answered in due time in Raleigh, but for right now, Mike and Jim have teamed up to conduct a fantasy draft for The Hockey Writers.
What follows is how the draft unfolded, with commentary by both writers on some of their reasoning behind certain picks, and also their favorite and least favorite selections. They adhered to the rules that the two teams will have to adhere to in the real draft on January 28th, but with a minor tweak. In the real ASG Draft, the teams will have to select three goalies by the 10th round, and have all six of their defensemen locked in after 15 rounds. Since Mike and Jim do not already have three players in place, these deadlines were moved back to the 13th and 18th rounds of their draft.
With the formalities out of the way, Mr. Colligan is on the clock:
Team Colligan: Sidney Crosby, Center, Pittsburgh Penguins
Team Neveau: Steven Stamkos, Center, Tampa Bay Lightning
JN: It may have made sense in a marketing sense to take a guy like Ovechkin in this spot, but after the wild success of 24/7, I’m worried that people will go through Caps/Pens overload. Stamkos is a ridiculously talented kid, and his spectacular offensive season has been unfortunately overshadowed by Crosby. This kid belongs on the big stage.
Colligan: Daniel Sedin, Left Wing, Vancouver Canucks
MC: I feel bad for Daniel Sedin. He was a broken foot away from becoming the first ever co-MVP in the NHL last year. He scores far more goals than Henrik and even had the exact same point-pace as his twin brother in 2009-10 (just as they have done their entire career). At some point he’ll get the credit he’s due and what better time to start than now?
Neveau: Dustin Byfuglien, Defenseman, Atlanta Thrashers
JN: While my colleague opted for the loading up on forwards route to start with, I decided to take unquestionably the best offensive defenseman in this game. While hockey pundits are constantly questioning his defensive prowess, the idea of an All-Star Game isn’t to showcase real hockey skills. It’s to watch spectacles like a freakishly large man skate with reckless abandon and try to score as many goals as possible.
Colligan: Henrik Sedin, Center, Vancouver Canucks
Neveau: Alex Ovechkin, Left Wing, Washington Capitals
Colligan: Martin St. Louis, Right Wing, Tampa Bay Lightning
MC: In a head-to-head battle, my goal was to hopefully cancel out any of Jim’s big scorers that I could. We weren’t aware of the actual draft results, but if Stamkos and St. Louis end up on the same team you can be sure they’ll be linemates. Same goes for Toews and Kane.
Neveau: Corey Perry, Right Wing, Anaheim Ducks
JN: This pick was based solely on Colligan’s pick. He opted for the tiny guy who makes an art form of performing dazzling moves and lightning quick passes, and so I went for the forward with huge offensive upside who also has a short fuse. Fights don’t normally happen in the ASG, but if that is even remotely possible, it would be Perry who would make it happen.
Colligan: Anze Kopitar, Center, Los Angeles Kings
Neveau: Jonathan Toews, Center, Chicago Blackhawks
Colligan: Patrick Kane, Right Wing, Chicago Blackhawks
Neveau: Tim Thomas, Goalie, Boston Bruins
Colligan: Mike Green, Defenseman, Washington Capitals
MC: Sure Dustin Byfuglien is having a monster season offensively, but wasn’t he just a complementary piece on an “All-Star Team” last year in Chicago? Nine picks later I’ll gladly take Mike Green. This is the one time all season when Green gets to score at will and critics can’t use it against him to argue that he’s a terrible defenseman.
Neveau: Kris Letang, Defenseman, Pittsburgh Penguins
JN: This was one of my favorite picks. Not only did it steal away a precious Penguin from Mike, but it also was a great counter to the move that he made with his seventh round selection. Green is having another solid offensive season, but Letang has been just as good if not better. He is tailor-made for a game that puts no emphasis on defense, and adding him to the blue line immediately puts other teams on edge.
Colligan: Brad Richards, Center, Dallas Stars
MC: At what point will Brad Richards start to get mentioned in the same conversation as the game’s elite? He had 91 points last year on the Dallas Stars and is on a similar pace this season. If he gets moved to a new home at the trade deadline the sky could be the limit for this superstar playmaker. Something tells me he’s due for an MVP-caliber game with a few pure scorers on his wings.
Neveau: Patrick Sharp, Forward, Chicago Blackhawks
Colligan: Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins
MC: While Jim was getting nervous about the rules regarding defense and goalies, I was busy stocking up on pure offensive talent. He admitted that he forgot about Malkin, and after passing on him with my first 8 picks it’s safe to say I did too. Is that a sign of how far Malkin has fallen off the superstar radar? He’s been quietly injured much of the first half and I’m feeling a big second half of the season from him…it starts with a huge performance in the All-Star Game.
Neveau: Jonas Hiller, Anaheim Ducks
Colligan: Eric Staal, Carolina Hurricanes
Neveau: Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
JN: In retrospect, I should’ve countered this pick by Mike by selecting Cam Ward. The reason for this is because he was going to have to pick three goalies in a row anyway, and me taking Giroux here (when he still was guaranteed to be available for three more rounds) allowed Colligan to co-opt the home crowd advantage for his squad. Letting him establish himself as the Luke Skywalker to my Darth Vader was a mistake.
Colligan: Cam Ward, Goalie, Carolina Hurricanes
MC: When my hand was finally forced to take a goalie, I went with the hometown hero strategy in Ward. He’s always been a clutch goaltender, but immediately after taking him I regretted passing on Carey Price. Luckily, Jim was mesmerized by Marc Andre-Fleury and Price was still there the next round to scoop up. Crisis averted.
Neveau: Marc-Andre Fleury, Goalie, Pittsburgh Penguins
Colligan: Carey Price, Goalie, Montreal Canadiens
Neveau: Ryan Kesler, Center, Vancouver Canucks
Colligan: Henrik Lundqvist, Goalie, New York Rangers
Neveau: Tobias Enstrom, Defenseman, Atlanta Thrashers
JN: I knew that Mike was going to have to draft nothing but defensemen for the next five rounds, so I wanted to take the best one available. Not only did picking Enstrom accomplish that for me, but it also enabled me to prevent him from splitting up the Atlanta pair like he did with Kane and Toews. Going for chemistry may be clichéd on a team, but if he can do that with the Sedin twins, then why should I not want a defensive pair that works so well together?
Colligan: Duncan Keith, Defenseman, Chicago Blackhawks
MC: Waiting to draft defensemen works out pretty well when you can get a Norris winner at #27 and Mr. Norris at #29. Most of the defensemen in this year’s crop are very good players and it’ll be interesting to see what qualities the true captains go for.
Neveau: Matt Duchene, Center, Colorado Avalanche
JN: Do I really have to give a reason for this pick? Duchene is an extremely talented youngster, and the fact that he was available at this point in the draft was a stroke of luck. Along with Tampa, Colorado has one of the best offenses in the league, and Duchene is the catalyst. Here’s hoping I can do the “Bangity Bang” dance when Duchene carries me to victory over Colligan.
Colligan: Nicklas Lidstrom, Defenseman, Detroit Red Wings
Neveau: Shea Weber, Defenseman, Nashville Predators
Colligan: Dan Boyle, Defenseman, San Jose Sharks
Neveau: Zdeno Chara, Defenseman, Boston Bruins
JN: Looking back at this draft, I’m struggling to believe that I picked Chara without him actually being in the room intimidating me into doing so. I know that none of the remaining three defensemen are particularly noteworthy, but I probably could’ve done better than Zdeno in this spot.
Colligan: Erik Karlsson, Defenseman, Ottawa Senators
Neveau: Brent Burns, Defenseman, Minnesota Wild
Colligan: Marc Staal, Defenseman, New York Rangers
MC: A downside to the “ignore defense and goalies” strategy is you get stuck with the scraps. At both positions that ended up being members of the New York Rangers. I’m still a little confused how both of these guys made it into the All-Star Game in the first place. At least Lundqvist has played his entire career behind defense that hangs him out to dry, so this should be like another night at the office.
Neveau: Loui Eriksson, Left Wing, Dallas Stars
JN: This pick was one of my favorites for two reasons: one, it gave me a point per game forward who is capable of changing the tide of a game, and two, it deprived Mike of a player that I knew he wanted. Eriksson has definitely flown under the radar this season, but this guy should definitely be getting more exposure.
Colligan: Rick Nash, Left Wing, Columbus Blue Jackets
MC: I assumed Nash would have a huge Olympics with talented linemates and he didn’t. It begs the question, can guys like Nash and Ilya Kovalchuk even function with good players on their line after so many years of carrying a team on their back? I know this game doesn’t mean that much, but Nash is one player I always keep an eye on in these events.
Neveau: Phil Kessel, Right Wing, Toronto Maple Leafs
Colligan: Jarome Iginla, Right Wing, Calgary Flames
Neveau: David Backes, Right Wing, St. Louis Blues
Colligan: Ales Hemsky, Right Wing, Edmonton Oilers
Neveau: Patrik Elias, Left Wing, New Jersey Devils
After the game and THW Live on All-Star Sunday, we’ll reveal which team ended up winning the epic fantasy battle between Colligan and Neveau. Until then, let the debate rage about which team will end up triumphant!