Since 2016, the NHL All-Star Game has been played at three-on-three. Each division has 11 players (nine skaters and two goaltenders), and they play in a two-round knockout-style tournament to determine the winner. There was no All-Star Game last season due to COVID-19, but based on the five previous iterations of this tournament, the games in the first round tend to be high scoring. Teams have combined to average approximately 12 goals in the first round, while the final game has seen an average score totaling about eight goals. Intuitively, it makes sense, as there is prize money on the line, after all.
Rosters were selected by a fan vote, and, as is the case every year, a few players will miss because of injury. Nathan MacKinnon was replaced by Roman Josi; Brady Tkachuk will fill in for teammate Drake Batherson; and Evgeny Kuznetsov took Adam Fox’s place. Fox is a big loss for the Metropolitan Division, while MacKinnon is a huge loss for the Central, which probably has the weakest team on paper. Batherson is a good player, but Tkachuk is a good replacement. At first blush, it’s tough to pick out the strongest roster.
It’s hard not to like the Metropolitan Division’s shooting talent, as Chris Kreider (31), Alex Ovechkin (29) and Jake Guentzel (23) are among the top 10 goal scorers in the league, and Sebastian Aho (19) is 25th. Claude Giroux is no slouch either with 15 goals, and Evgeny Kuznetsov and Jack Hughes are perfectly suited for three-on-three hockey. Their goaltending isn’t terribly strong, and Adam Pelech isn’t going to offer much on the offensive side. Zach Werenski should have no trouble playing the rover and creating offense, though.
As good as the Metropolitan Division team is, the Atlantic looks just as tough. The combination of Auston Matthews, Jonathan Huberdeau, Dylan Larkin and Steven Stamkos (not to mention Nick Suzuki and Patrice Bergeron) is scary, and while only two of those players are among the top 10 in goal scoring, the talent is through the roof. Add two offensive-minded defenders in Victor Hedman and Rasmus Dahlin and the best goaltender of this generation (Andrei Vasilevskiy) and we’ve got ourselves a tournament favorite.
The obvious thing to point out is that the Pacific Division is home to Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, but there is some sneaky talent on this team beyond them. Everybody knows what Johnny Gaudreau can do, and Mark Stone is one of the smartest forwards in the game, but Troy Terry and Timo Meier have been the best players on their teams as well. Alex Pietrangelo is a great fit on defense as he likes to jump up into the play and get involved on offense, and their goaltending is solid with John Gibson and Thatcher Demko. Adrian Kempe and Jordan Eberle should do well on a line with talented players, but overall, this roster isn’t as strong as some of the others.
Every team has a realistic shot at winning the two-round tournament, but with MacKinnon out, the Central just doesn’t stack up with the others in terms of talent. Don’t get me wrong, there are some very skilled players, but Cale Makar and Roman Josi might be the best players on the team. Not to take anything away from Kirill Kaprizov or Kyle Connor, but their counterparts at forward outmatch them. Juuse Saros is a bonafide All-Star, but Cam Talbot is the worst goaltender of the bunch, which could cause some trouble for the Central Division team.
Sportsbooks aren’t offering odds on the All-Star Game yet, but they will, so here’s how I estimate each team’s chances of winning the tournament:
Atlantic: 29 percent (+ 245)
Metropolitan: 27 percent (+ 270)
Pacific: 23 percent (+ 325)
Central: 21 percent (+ 375)