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Let’s pick the 2018 NHL All-Star Game captains

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The NHL opened up voting for the 2018 All-Star Game on Saturday. The event will take place the weekend of Jan. 27-28 at Amalie Arena in Tampa. As usual, Saturday night will be all about the Skills Competition, while Sunday will mark the third straight year the league goes with the 3-on-3 divisional tournament format.

Voting, you’ll remember, is only for the four captains representing each division and runs through Jan. 1. The remaining All-Stars will be named some time next month.

So with the All-Star Game on the mind, we decided to take it upon ourselves and help the NHL come up with their four captains. There won’t be any John Scott-type fun this year, unless the NHL agrees to change the Metropolitan Division jerseys to feature Ryan Reavesawesome Phil Kessel shirt.

In the meantime, here’s what we’re going with…

ATLANTIC DIVISION

Sean Leahy: Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning: This one is pretty automatic. The event is in Tampa. The Lightning are ridiculous. Stamkos is the local captain. He’s going to get the loudest cheers of the weekend with Nikita Kucherov coming in a close second.

Joey Alfieri: Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning: It’s hard not to root for Stamkos after all the injuries and health scares he’s gone through over the last couple of years. The Bolts captain has had an impressive season so far with 37 points in 26 games, but what’s even more remarkable is that he’s gone from sniper to set-up guy. He might not have a ton of personality, but he’s a feel-good story. Also, the All-Star game is being held in Tampa.

Adam Gretz: Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning: Nikita Kucherov has more goals and more points, but Stamkos has been the face of the Lightning organization for a decade, the game is in Tampa, and now that Stamkos is finally back healthy again we are being reminded as to just how great of a player he is. A huge portion of his prime years have been taken away. He is back.

James O’Brien: Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning: Kucherov is way too important to the Lightning’s top pairing alongside Stamkos to be the Robin to Stamkos’ Batman, but he’s certainly paid that way. Hardcore fans know (or hopefully, are starting to truly realize) how great Kucherov is. Mainstream fans might not, so maybe this could be a beacon for them, at least before Kucherov starts collecting hardware at the NHL Awards?

This honor pretty much has to go to a Lightning player since the event is in Tampa, but it’s nice that it’s also warranted.

METROPOLITAN DIVISION

Leahy: Brian Boyle, New Jersey Devils: Remember, this is a weekend about fun, not super serious hockey. Tavares, Crosby, Kessel, Ovechkin, Bobrovsky… There sure are a handful of solid choices in the Metro, but Boyle’s a great choice here because of how he worked his way back after an early season battle with leukemia and how he’s performed since returning to the ice (4 goals, 6 points in 16 games). Plus, he has personality, which is something that is supposed to shine during All-Star Weekend.

Alfieri: Phil Kessel, Pittsburgh Penguins: I know Kessel isn’t a fan of interviews and being in the spotlight, but hear me out on this one. Kessel plays in the game, while teammate (and resident prankster) Reaves is running around in Kessel-inspired t-shirts playing jokes on him. I seriously believe that would add another layer of entertainment to the weekend’s festivities. If you want Reaves to play in the game, I’m not opposed to it.

Gretz: Phil Kessel, Pittsburgh Penguins: He has been the best player on a back-to-back Stanley Cup champion, plus everybody seems to love him. Seems like a perfect fit for what the All-Star game is supposed to be about: A deserving player that is a fan favorite.

O’Brien: Phil Kessel, Pittsburgh Penguins: As of this writing, Kessel is the division’s most prolific point producer. This honor serves to right the wrong (the hilarious wrong, but a wrong nonetheless) of Kessel being selected last in the 2011 All-Star fantasy draft. And, really, it must be emphasized over and over that he’s a great player, full-stop. It’s OK if his captain’s ‘C’ is actually one of those hot dogs that curls, turned to the side.

(Honorable mention: Taylor Hall, who deserves to be thought of as more than just a lucky rabbit’s foot for the draft lottery.)

CENTRAL DIVISION

Leahy: Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets: The St. Louis trio of Brayden Schenn, Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz are certainly deserving, but Wheeler’s been a beast so far with 35 points in 27 games. He’s been a consistent producer since his first full season in Winnipeg, so this would be a great chance for him to get some more (deserving) love.

Alfieri: Alexander Radulov, Dallas Stars: I fully realize I’m going off the board with this pick, but let me explain. I got to cover Radulov a little bit while he was a member of the Montreal Canadiens last season. The guy is funny (he kept referring to Carey Price as “Corey” without even realizing it), he has personality and he’s having a pretty good season in 2017-18. He might not get the national coverage that some of the other players in the division get, but he’d add some life to All-Star weekend.

Gretz: Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets: The Jets are finally, for the first time in their existence, a really good hockey team that has a promising core of impact players to build around. Scheifele has become one of the focal points of that group and has quietly been one of the best offensive players in the league for three years now. Give him his due.

O’Brien: Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues: Yes, Schwartz and Schenn have the sexier totals so far this season, but Tarasenko is the guy I’m most confident about when it comes to sustained star play. “The Tank” really isn’t far behind Alex Ovechkin as far as sniping goes, and this honor stands as a testament to that notion.

PACIFIC DIVISION

Leahy: Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings: Johnny Gaudreau and Connor McDavid will definitely be in Tampa, regardless. They’re having strong seasons. While the NHL tries to get one player from each team involved, who’s to say they don’t go with Drew Doughty for LA? Kopitar is back to being the dominant force we remember and has bounced back with 14 goals and 31 points in 28 games. As an added bonus, he might even bring his awesome pup Gustl to the festivities.

Alfieri: Jonathan Marchessault, Vegas Golden Knights: How can you not go with a Golden Knight here? Marchessault has had a terrific season for the expansion side. He somehow put up a point-per-game in the first quarter of the season, and giving Vegas some more exposure would definitely be a good thing for the team and league. Maybe the team’s Twitter account has rubbed off on him a bit (not too much though).

Gretz: Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers: The Oilers for the most part stink. Mismanagement from up top has put a lousy team around the franchise player and they are by far the biggest disappointment in the league this season. That does not mean that Connor McDavid isn’t still the best player in the league.

O’Brien: Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers: Don’t let his hapless team fool you; McDavid is still the best player in the world. Plus he’s been willing to be at least funny-adjacent lately.

PHT Morning Skate: Devils prospect named captain of Team USA’s World Junior squad

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Team Canada made their final cuts over the weekend for the upcoming World Junior Hockey Championship in Buffalo. The roster is now set. (Hockey Canada)

• Despite what Eugene Melnyk has been saying, Bill Daly made it clear that the Sens aren’t going anywhere. (Ottawa Citizen)

• During Saturday’s NHL 100 Classic in Ottawa, the league announced their top moment in history. The honor went to Mario Lemieux’s unforgettable five-goal performance. (NHL.com)

• The Capitals came out with “Capitals Tunes: Volume 2”. If you’re a fan of good holiday music, you might not want to listen. (DC Puck Drop)

• Check out these stories from the NHL’s inaugural season which took place 100 years ago. (Sporting News)

• Joel Lundqvist isn’t as well known as his brother Henrik, but hockey has treated both of them pretty well. (Sportsnet)

Pekka Rinne is proud of the way Preds backup and fellow Finn Juuse Saros has performed. (Tennessean)

• There is no team that’s more Jekyll and Hyde than the Dallas Stars. (Black Out Dallas)

• Everybody loves a goalie fight, right? Well, there was one in the AHL this weekend as Pheonix Copley and Jordan Binnington dropped the gloves/blocker. (Chocolate Hockey)

• The Red Wings auctioned off “Al the Octopus” over the weekend. They managed to get $7,700 for it. (Detroit Free Press)

• Former NHLer Matt Johnson is missing, and a man from North Dakota went looking for him. (Grand Forks Herald)

• It’s not easy for the Tampa Bay Lightning to replace a “heart and soul” guy like Ryan Callahan. (Tampa Times)

• It took a little bit of time, but Rangers forward Pavel Buchnevich‘s English has come a long way. (Sports Illustrated)

• Since returning from an injury in early December, things have been tough for Bruins winger Anders Bjork. (Bruins Daily)

• The Coyotes’ upcoming schedule is like a trip down memory lane for head coach Rick Tocchet. (Arizona Sports 98.7 FM)

• The Winnipeg Jets have star players that have helped carry them this season, but it’s the solid performances from unexpected contributors that has made the difference. (Fan Rag Sports)

• Sweden seems to have figured out the right way to develop their talented young hockey players. (Elite Prospects)

• Tough break for the San Jose Sharks, as they’ll be without Logan Couture (concussion) on Monday. (Mercury News)

• Devils prospect Joey Anderson was named captain of Team USA’s World Junior team. (USA Hockey)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

The Buzzer: Marchessault leads Golden Knights; Boeser injures foot

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Player of the Night: Jonathan Marchessault, Vegas Golden Knights

Marchessault took over the Vegas scoring lead with a big night during a 5-2 win over his old team, the Florida Panthers. The Golden Knights scored four unanswered goals after falling behind 2-0 early in the first period, and Marchessault played a big part by assisting on the tying and go-ahead goals and then potting the empty-netter to seal things. He now has 29 points on the season.

Reilly Smith, another ex-Panther, chipped in a pair of assists, including one on Marchessault’s goal to ice things for Gerard Gallant’s side. Vegas is now 13-2-1 at home.

Highlight of the Night:

Patrik Laine scored his team-leading 16th of the season for the Winnipeg Jets, and it was beautiful.

MISC:

Patrick Kane scored twice and Corey Crawford made 27 saves as the Chicago Blackhawks downed the Minnesota Wild 4-1 for their fifth win in a row. Kane now has seven points in his last four games. He’s one goal away from 300 for his career and now sits fifth all-time in Blackhawks history.

• Connor Hellebuyck stopped all 24 shots he faced and recorded his eighth career shutout during a 4-0 win over the St. Louis Blues. Adam Lowry, Laine, Mark Scheifele and Josh Morrissey provided the goals as the Jets split their home-and-home with the Blues.

Sam Bennett had four points and Mark Jankowski recorded three as the Calgary Flames drubbed the Vancouver Canucks 6-1. Mark Giordano added a pair of goals and David Rittich stopped 16 of 17 shots he faced for his third career NHL victory.

• The Canucks and Panthers weren’t too fond of the third period Sunday night. Vancouver was outshot 19-4 while Florida mustered only two shots on goal while allowing 18 over the final 20 minutes.

• Oh no. Brock Boeser left the game early in the second period after blocking a Mark Giordano shot. Canucks head coach Travis Green did not have an update after the game. This is not good.

Erik Johnson of the Colorado Avalanche will miss two games after being suspended for boarding Vladislav Namestnikov of the Tampa Bay Lightning Saturday night.

• Congrats, Erik Karlsson. It’s a boy!

Our hearts exploded with that puck. We can’t wait to meet you baby BOY 💙

A post shared by Melinda Karlsson (@mel.karlsson) on

Factoid of the Night:

Scores:
Winnipeg 4, St. Louis 0
Chicago 4, Minnesota 1
Calgary 6, Vancouver 1
Vegas 5, Florida 2

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy

Canucks’ Brock Boeser suffers foot injury after blocking shot (Video)

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As the Vancouver Canucks transition their roster and let the kids take over, Brock Boeser has been a real bright spot this season. Well, right now fans are holding their collective breaths hoping that the Calder Trophy candidate isn’t too seriously hurt after blocking a Mark Giordano shot early in the second period Sunday night.

Did you catch that Jim Benning reaction?

Sportsnet

Yup, us too, Jim.

Boeser, who leads the Canucks and all NHL rookies in scoring with 17 goals and 30 points, was ruled out for the rest of the night a short while later with a foot injury.

If you’re keeping track at home, that’s all three members of the Canucks’ BBB line that are currently injured. Bo Horvat is out until January with a foot injury and Sven Baertschi has a similar timeline after fracturing his jaw.

Depending on the severity of the injury could also impact some of Boeser’s potential bonuses in his rookie season. Ryan Biech of The Athletic had a great breakdown on Friday about how much the Vancouver stands to earn this season should he hit certain totals in specific categories. Hopefully this doesn’t keep him out long. The Calder race is better with him a part of it.

UPDATE: Canucks head coach didn’t have an update on Boeser after the game.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Erik Johnson to sit two games for Avalanche after suspension

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It was pretty clear that after receving a slashing minor, boarding major and game misconduct all in the span of about three seconds, Erik Johnson of the Colorado Avalanche still had some punishment coming to him.

And so on Sunday night the NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced a two-game ban for the veteran defenseman after he boarded Vladislav Namestnikov Saturday night in Colorado.

As detailed in the video, Johnson knows that Namestnikov has already fired his shot on goal and the Tampa Bay Lightning forward isn’t expecting to be shoved like that after his scoring attempt. That, and how far he was from the boards make it all especially dangerous. Fortunately, Namestnikov was able to remain in the game.

“Dangerous play. You just hold your breath on those. Got a little fortunate with Vladdy, obviously didn’t get as fortunate with Callahan,” said Lightning head coach Jon Cooper, referring to Ryan Callahan‘s injury after an awkward collision with Oliver Ekman-Larsson last week.

Johnson will lose out on $64,516.12, which goes to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.