Editorials

Picking our Central Division All-Star Teams

With the National Hockey League (and the entire sports world) on hiatus, people are coming up with tons of different ways to keep people involved in the sports world. One way that we are doing it here at Drive4Five is by surveying our staff on what their All-Star teams would look like by division. Last week, we did the Atlantic Division All-Star teams. For this week’s All-Star Survey, we take a look at how everyone’s Central Division teams look like. Before getting into the teams, two rules were set in stone, one being that it had to be a full 12-6-2 roster, and the other being that each team in the division had to have at least one representative. So, here are everyone’s Central Division All-Star teams.

David:

Mikko Rantanen – Nathan MacKinnon – Gabriel Landeskog
Kyle Connor – Mark Scheifele – Patrick Kane
David Perron – Ryan O’Reilly – Filip Forsberg
Blake Wheeler – Tyler Seguin – Patrik Laine
Roman Josi – Alex Pietrangelo
Cale Makar – Miro Heiskanen
Neal Pionk – Ryan Suter
Connor Hellebuyck
Ben Bishop

“Just like the Atlantic Division, the Central Division has many players that work well together. The Jets had a shocking campaign, led by elite goaltending, dynamic offense, and surprising defense. Neal Pionk has quietly put together two successful seasons in a row, earning a spot on the team over Samuel Girard. On offense, the Jets, Blues, and Avalanche can provide some enticing pairings, led by star power. Kevin Fiala and a few Blues depth pieces almost made the team. In net, Jordan Binnington deserves recognition, but having two of the best goalies over the last two campaigns will do it. Another division of talent makes this decision hard, but I like this team.”

Matt:

Landeskog – MacKinnon – Rantanen
Connor – Scheifele – Wheeler
Kevin Fiala – O’Reilly – Kane
Perron – Jonathan Toews – Patrik Laine
Heiskanen – Josi
Makar – Pionk
Pietrangelo – Suter
Jordan Binnington
Bishop

“For my honorable mentions in the Central Division, I chose a forward, a defenseman, and a goaltender. At forward, I chose Nikolaj Ehlers of the Winnipeg Jets. If the Islanders hadn’t traded for Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Winnipeg was looking for a defenseman, Ehlers would’ve been a top name on my list for trade targets. At the young age of 24, he has already has asserted himself as a strong goal scorer. He has 25 goals and 58 points this season and had the season continued he might’ve had a career year with his projections of 28 goals, 38 assists, and 66 total points. He will be a player to watch for the Jets in the future as he continues to develop as a very well rounded forward. On defense, I picked Samuel Girard, a young star in the making for the Colorado Avalanche. He was acquired by the Avs in the trade that sent Matt Duchene to Ottawa and Kyle Turris to Nashville, and Nashville may be regretting the decision to let him go. In his age 21 season, he has four goals and 34 points, which may not seem great, but he is still very young and can only get older and better with time. He is also locked up long term by Colorado, as next year serves as the first year on a seven-year, $35 million contract. As a result, Girard will become a great complement to an already explosive Cale Makar and could be on this list once he hits his prime. In goal, my honorable mention is Anton Khudobin from the Dallas Stars. He may be a backup goaltender, but he is enjoying a great year with Dallas. In 30 games he has a 16-8-4 record with a 2.22 goals-against average and .930 save percentage. His GAA ranks in a tie for third-best in the league with Darcy Kuemper of the Arizona Coyotes and is first in save percentage this year. He and Ben Bishop have formed arguably one of the best goalie tandems in the NHL this year, and Khudobin has been an underrated piece to the Stars’ success, as he gives Dallas confidence whenever Bishop needs a night off. With Khudobin being a pending UFA, he will be a name to watch if Dallas decides to keep the tandem together or if a team looking for goalie help takes him on next season.”

Will:

Kane – MacKinnon – Rantanen
Tarasenko – Seguin – Landeskog
Wheeler – Toews – Staal
Forsberg – O’Reilly – Schenn
Pietrangelo – Josi
Keith – Klingberg
Parayko – Jared Spurgeon
Bishop
Hellebuyck

“It took a few attempts to stick in the NHL but, once he did, Mark Scheifele has been a consistent producer for the Winnipeg Jets. He has been on at least a point-per-game the past four seasons. The biggest thing holding him back has been injuries. He has played fewer than 73 games in three of his six full seasons, not including the 2019-20 campaign. Alexander Radulov has been productive since returning to the NHL in 2016. After a year in Montreal, he had back-to-back 72 point campaigns in Dallas. He’s a big help to take the load off of the stars like Benn and Seguin, especially when they slump on the offensive side. His fiery personality is a lot of fun to watch on the ice. Miro Heiskanen, the 2017 third-overall pick has improved greatly from a very good rookie campaign. He got playoff experience as a 19-year-old and his confidence has soared since. Heiskanen is a great skater with hockey sense and passing abilities while his defensive game continues to improve. He has a bright future in Dallas. Coming up and helping to turn the Blues’ season around last year, Jordan Binnington has shown he has the skills to be an NHL starting goaltender. Very similar to Matt Murray’s story, Binnington has cemented himself as the starter a year after winning the Stanley Cup in his first season. Blues fans hope that he won’t fall off like Murray has in recent years but Binnington is a strong number three on the Central All-Star team.”

Shawn:

Kane – Scheifele – Vladimir Tarasenko
Rantanen – MacKinnon – Landeskog
Laine – O’Reilly – Alex DeBrincat
Wheeler – Forsberg – Nikolaj Ehlers
Pietrangelo – Colton Parayko
Makar – Suter
Josi – Heiskanen
Binnington
Hellebyuck

“Out of all the divisions we have covered so far, the Central Division is the toughest of them all even with only seven teams. The Central has a lot of underrated players that are achieving stardom. While my team features a lot of St. Louis, as it should, I want to include one more forward from the Cup champs in David Perron. He has found his game this year and has been one of the best forwards in terms of playing a complete game and offensive production. Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn both get honorable mentions because they are star players, but their production has decreased sharply the past couple seasons, excluding them from my main team. Kevin Fiala from the Minnesota Wild is another speedy player who has found the back of the net quite a bit this year and is easily one of the most underrated players in the National Hockey League. For a defensive honorable mention, I am picking Ryan Graves. While +/- can be a flawed stat, Graves has dominated the category for the majority of the season. He is exceptional all 200 feet of the ice and one of the most valuable defensemen in the Avalanche organization. In goal, I am putting Ben Bishop as an honorable mention. Goalies were the hardest part of this whole process. Bishop is having a solid season like always, stealing many wins for Dallas. I only put him behind Binnington because he is having another insane season, and his numbers are better than Bishop’s. Hellebuyck is putting up incredible numbers on a team with a weak defense, and has truly been Winnipeg’s primary reason for success this season.”

Scott:

Landeskog – MacKinnon – Rantanen
Connor – Scheifele – Kane
Staal – O’Reilly – Perron
Wheeler – Seguin – DeBrincat
Josi – Pietrangelo
Makar – Heiskanen
Girard – Suter
Hellebuyck
Bishop

“It seems like the teams are getting harder by the week to build. The first line represents the first line of the Colorado Avalanche, followed by the second line that includes two Jets in Mark Scheifele and Kyle Connor alongside one of the best players of our generation in Patrick Kane. Two Stanley Cup champions from last season in Ryan O’Reilly and David Perron make up two-thirds of the third line, as well as Eric Staal. The fourth line includes a young talent in Alex DeBrincat, with Tyler Seguin and Blake Wheeler. The forward core is extremely deep, with so many All-Stars not making the team. Other forwards in consideration were Jamie Benn, Brayden Schenn, Jaden Schwartz, Jonathan Toews, Nikolaj Ehlers, Patrik Laine, Filip Forsberg, Matt Duchene, Kevin Fiala, and Zach Parise. On the defense, the top-four includes four players that should be there no matter what, including upcoming Unrestricted Free Agent Alex Pietrangelo, alongside Roman Josi and two young stars in Cale Makar and Miro Heiskanen. Suter has been consistently dominant, and Samuel Girard is another one of the young up-and-coming defensemen in the league. The honorable mentions on defense include Duncan Keith, Ryan Graves, John Klingberg, Esa Lindell, Jared Spurgeon, Mattias Ekholm, Ryan Ellis, Colton Parayko, and Neal Pionk. Goaltending was tough, and I ended up going with a potential Vezina candidate in Connor Hellebuyck, and a former Vezina candidate in Ben Bishop. The honorable mentions in goal are Jordan Binnington, Devan Dubnyk, and Pekka Rinne.”

Aidan:

Ehlers – MacKinnon – Rantanen
Benn – O’Reilly – Valeri Nichushkin
Andre Burakovsky – Matt Duchene – Tarasenko
Dominik Kubalik – Scheifele – Kane
Pietrangelo – Spurgeon
Ryan Ellis – Josi
Makar – Vince Dunn
Hellebuyck
Bishop

“Whereas the transition from a division from eight teams to one with seven teams may initially seem challenging, the Central Division presented a perfect opportunity for creative and strategic planning. For example, my forward unit in the Central Division is composed of some offensive stars, some defensive stars, and some two-way stars; in comparison, my forward unit in the Atlantic Division is composed almost solely of the top offensive stars in the division. The Central Division gave me the perfect opportunity to combine two of the best defensive forwards, Benn and O’Reilly, with arguably the best defensive forward in the NHL, Valeri Nichushkin. Additionally, it was difficult to exclude the offensive impact of Kane, Scheifele, and Tarasenko, despite their lackluster defense, so I provided them with solid two-way linemates such as Burakovsky and Duchene, as well as a rookie with superstar potential in Kubalik. The Central Division offered ten-strong defensemen, which ultimately made the lineup construction difficult. I comfortably gave Ellis, Josi, Makar, Pietrangelo, and Spurgeon guaranteed roster spots because they have been elite throughout their careers in Expected Goals Above Replacement. In consideration for the final defensive spot were Dunn, Colton Parayko, Mattias Ekholm, Miro Heiskanen, and John Klingberg, but Dunn ultimately got the nod because he has been significantly above replacement-level both offensively and defensively in each of the last two seasons. In addition to the Central Division’s elite defensive core, it offered the best goaltending tandem out of any division; however, it was extremely difficult to exclude Jordan Binnington. I ultimately selected Hellebuyck and Bishop because they have been strong goaltenders for several years, whereas Binnington, although he has been impressive, has played only 82 games in his career. Altogether, my Central Division team revolves around elite defensive impact, as well as two forward lines, the first and the fourth, that can carry the offensive load.”

Ben:

Forsberg – MacKinnon – Kane
Benn – Seguin – Wheeler
Connor – O’Reilly – Rantanen
Landeskog – Toews – Laine
Josi – Makar
Heiskanen – Klingberg
Suter – Pietrangelo
Hellebuyck
Bishop

“The left-wing position is deep in the Central Division and Jaden Schwartz was on the outside looking in. It was between him and Benn, but I like Benn’s all-around game a bit more. The same applies to the center position. Mark Scheifele is one of the most underrated players in the league. He falls just short of Jonathan Toews who was also having a great season before the pause. I’d preferably have Vladimir Tarasenko over Laine, but the star winger was injured early in the season. Laine also rebounded after two sluggish seasons, so I’ll give the Finn the benefit of the doubt. Colorado Avalanche defenseman Ryan Graves leads the league in +/-, and has 26 points to his name. Ryan Ellis is part of a stellar defense in Nashville. He’s overshadowed by his defense partner Roman Josi and falls just short of Pietrangelo. Jordan Binnington came out of nowhere to lead the Blues to the Stanley Cup last season. He’s continued his great play, but Connor Hellebyuck and Ben Bishop have carried a bit more weight and have performed just as well.”

Melissa:

Ehlers – MacKinnon – Tarasenko
Benn – Kirby Dach – Laine
O’Reilly – Seguin – Alexander Radulov
Kane – Staal – Mats Zuccarello
Josi – Pietrangelo
Keith – Makar
Suter – Parayko
Hellebuyck
Bishop

“One honorable mention for the Central Division team is Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne. Even at age 37, Rinne is still posting big numbers; however, unlike Bishop and Hellebuyck, Rinne doesn’t find himself towards the top of any statistical leaderboards. One more honorable mention for the Central Division team is Ryan Graves from the Colorado Avalanche. Graves, 24, is leading the league in +/-, which is never an easy feat; however, it’s clear to see that Graves, despite being a more defensive-first player, is making strides in his game this year on one of the league’s top teams.”

Thank you to all of our writers for participating in this week’s Central Division All-Star article! Come back next week for our Pacific Division All-Star teams!

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