On Thursday, the NHL’s All-Star Player Fantasy Draft will go down at the Hilton Lac Leamy in Gatineau-Ottawa, Quebec. (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN.)
Two teams — led by a captain and assistant captain — will select three goaltenders, six defensemen and 12 forwards each. Team Alfredsson will be led by captain Daniel Alfredsson (Ottawa) and assistant captain Henrik Lundqvist (New York Rangers); Team Chara will be led by captain Zdeno Chara (Boston) and assistant captain Joffrey Lupul (Toronto).
As we saw at the 2011 All-Star Game in Carolina, the Fantasy Draft can unfold in an unpredictable manner. Last year it was ‘Canes goalie and hometown favorite Cam Ward going first overall and Toronto’s Phil Kessel suffering the ignominy of being Mr. Irrelevant.
With that said, let’s predict the 2012 All-Star Fantasy Draft!
(But first, a quick overview of the protocol.)
Rules and regulations
— A coin toss will decide first pick with Alfredsson and Chara, joined by their assistant captains, alternately drafting the 38 remaining All-Stars through 19 rounds.
— To ensure that the final draft picks are true selections and not predetermined due to position requirements, each team’s three goalies must be picked by the end of Round 10.
— Each team’s six defensemen must be picked by the conclusion of Round 15.
For your consideration
1) Home cooking: As we saw in Carolina, hometown players have an advantage. Ward went first overall and 19-year-old rookie Jeff Skinner was taken in the 11th round, nullifying the “veterans first, newbies last” theory many thought would prevail.
Some hometown and local players to consider this year? Ottawa’s Jason Spezza, Milan Michalek and Erik Karlsson; Toronto’s Dion Phaneuf and Kessel (more on him later); Montreal’s Carey Price and former Senators Marian Hossa and Brian Elliott.
2) Star Power: Of course, captains could just pick the best players right off the hop. If that’s the case, look for NHL leading scorer Evgeni Malkin to be snapped up quickly along with Claude Giroux, Steve Stamkos and Pavel Datsyuk.
3) Ties that bind: Past relationships tend to play a big role. NHLers have long memories — last year, Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis picked Boston’s Tim Thomas and made a point of mentioning they were former teammates at the University of Vermont, dating back to 1993.
So in that vein, consider the relationships each captain and assistant have:
— Chara has two Boston teammates (Thomas, Tyler Seguin) and two Slovakian Olympic teammates (Hossa, Marian Gaborik) in the draft pool. Chara and Hossa were also former teammates in Ottawa.
— Lupul has Toronto teammates Phaneuf and Kessel, played in Philadelphia with Kimmo Timonen and is good friends with Scott Hartnell. Lupul is also a former teammate of Anaheim’s Corey Perry.
— Alfredsson has his Ottawa running mates (Spezza, Michalek, Karlsson) and his fellow Swedes to choose from: Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin and Alex Edler. Like Chara, Alfie is also a former teammate of Hossa.
— Lundqvist has two Rangers teammates (Gaborik and Dan Girardi.)
3) Guys that went late last year: Kessel, chosen last overall, obviously tops the list, though he swears being Mr. Irrelevant didn’t bother him. It seems there are two ways to go on Kessel — one, make amends for last year and select him near the top of the draft, or 2) keep the joke going and take him with the final pick again.
Other late picks from last year: Perry (15th round, 29th overall), Karlsson (14th round, 27th overall), Giroux (13th round, 25th overall) and defensemen Kris Letang and Keith Yandle, both of whom were taken in Round 12 (23rd and 24th overall.)