The NHL opened the ballot for the 2018 All-Star Game on Saturday. The event will take place on the weekend of January 27-28 at Amalie Arena in Tampa. As usual, Saturday night will be about the Skills Competition, while Sunday will mark the third consecutive year in which the league goes with the format of divisional tournament 3-a-3.
The voting, as you will recall, is only for the four captains who represent each division and will run until January 1. The remaining All-Stars will be named sometime next month.
So with the All-Star Game in mind, we decided to take it on and help the NHL get there with their four captains. There will be no John Scott-type fun this year, unless the NHL agrees to change the Metropolitan Division shirts for Ryan Kvesel's impressive Phil Kessel jersey.
Meanwhile, this is what we're going to do …  ATLANTIC DIVISION
Sean Leahy: Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning: This is quite automatic . The event is in Tampa. The rays are ridiculous. Stamkos is the local captain. It will receive the best applause of the weekend with Nikita Kucherov arriving in a close second.
Joey Alfieri: Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning: It's hard not to root for Stamkos after all the health scares and injuries he's gone through in recent years. The captain of the Bolts has had an impressive season so far with 37 points in 26 games, but what is even more remarkable is that he has gone from sniper to player. It may not have a lot of personality, but it's a story to feel good about. In addition, the All-Star Game will be 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 Rayo organization for a decade, the game is in Tampa, and now that Stamkos has finally regained health, we are reminded of how great the player he is. A large part of his best years have been removed. He is back.
James O & # 39; Brien: Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning: Kucherov is too important for Lightning's top pairing with Stamkos to be the Stamkos Batman's Robin, but he was certainly paid that way. Hard-core fans know (or, fortunately, they are really beginning to 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 has to go to a Lightning player since the event is in Tampa, but it is good that it is also guaranteed.
Leahy: Brian Boyle, New Jersey Demons: Remember, this is a weekend of fun, it's not a super serious hockey. Tavares, Crosby, Kessel, Ovechkin, Bobrovsky … Surely there are a handful of solid choices in the Metro, but Boyle is a great choice here because of how he regained his job after an early-season leukemia battle and how He played since he returned to the ice (4 goals, 6 points in 16 games). In addition, it has personality, which is something that is supposed to shine during the weekend of the stars.
Alfieri: Phil Kessel, Pittsburgh Penguins: I know that Kessel is not a fan of interviews and being in the limelight, but listen to me in this. Kessel plays in the game, while his teammate (and resident prankster) Reaves is running in Kessel-inspired T-shirts playing jokes about him. I seriously believe that I would add another layer of entertainment to the weekend festivities. If you want Reaves to play in the game, I'm not against it.
Gretz: Phil Kessel, Pittsburgh Penguins: Has been the best player in a consecutive Stanley Cup. champion, and everyone seems to love him. It seems like a perfect combination for what is supposed to be the All-Star Game: a deserving player who is a fan favorite.
O & # 39; Brien: Phil Kessel, Pittsburgh Penguins: In writing this, Kessel is the most prolific point producer in the division. This honor serves to correct the incorrectness (the hilarious, but wrong mistake) of having been selected Kessel for the last time in the 2011 All-Star fantasy draft. And, really, it must be emphasized again and again that he is a great player, full-stop. It's fine if your captain's "C" is actually one of those hot dogs that curls up, turns to the side.
(Honorable mention: Taylor Hall, which deserves to be considered more than just a lucky rabbit foot for the lottery project)
Leahy: Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets: The St. Louis trio of Brayden Schenn, Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz certainly deserve it, but Wheeler has been a beast until the moment with 35 points in 27 games. He has been a steady producer since his first full season in Winnipeg, so this would be a great opportunity to get a little more of (merit) love.
Alfieri: Alexander Radulov, Dallas Stars: I'm completely aware that I'm going to come off the board with this selection, but let me explain. I have to cover Radulov a bit while he was a member of the Montreal Canadiens last season. The guy is funny (he continued to refer to Carey Price as "Corey" without realizing it), has personality and is having a pretty good season in 2017-18. You may not get the national coverage that some of the other players in the division get, but it would add some life to the weekend of the stars.
Gretz: Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets: The Jets finally, for the first time in their existence, a really good hockey team that has a promising core of impact players to build. Scheifele has become one of the focal points of that group and has been quietly one of the best offensive players in the league for three years. Give it your due.
O & # 39; Brien: Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues : Yes, Schwartz and Schenn have sexiest totals this season, but Tarasenko is the guy I have the most confidence with. about when it comes to a sustained star game. "The Tank" really is not far behind Alex Ovechkin in terms of snipers, and this honor stands as a testament to that notion.
Leahy: Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings: Johnny Gaudreau and Connor McDavid will definitely be in Tampa, in spite of everything. They are having strong seasons. While the NHL tries to involve a player from each team, who can say that they do not go with Drew Doughty for LA? Kopitar has once again been the dominant force we remember and recovered with 14 goals and 31 points in 28 games. As an added bonus, you could even bring your amazing Gustl puppy to the festivities.
Alfieri: Jonathan Marchessault, Vegas Golden Knights: How can you not go with a Golden Knight here? Marchessault has had an excellent season for the expansion side. He somehow put one point per game in the first quarter of the season, and giving Vegas a little more exposure would definitely be a good thing for the team and the league. Maybe the team's Twitter account got a little infected (although not too much).
Gretz: Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers: The Oilers for the most part suck. Bad management from above 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 is not yet the best player in the league.
O & # 39; Brien: Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers: Do not let your hapless team fool you; McDavid is still the best player in the world. Also, he's been willing to be at least funny-adjacent lately.