LOS ANGELES â€” John Scott absorbed every bit of oxygen at last year’s NHL all-star weekend.
The starring attraction in Hollywood this January won’t be an unlikely enforcer taking part in the festivities, but Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine and a whole bunch of other first-time all-stars.
A repeat of the World Cup of Hockey, when McDavid and Matthews took their place on the big stage with Team North America, isn’t out of the question this weekend.
McDavid likely would have made it to Nashville as an all-star last year were it not for the broken collarbone he suffered in November. He’s been even better as a sophomore this season, leading the league in scoring while becoming the likeliest threat to Sidney Crosby’s bid for a third Hart trophy.
He’s leading the NHL not just in points, but even-strength points, assists, road points, penalties drawn, and primary assists.
McDavid might be the best player in hockey already and he just turned 20 on Jan. 13. He has the Oilers sniffing their first playoff appearance in more than a decade.
Matthews and Laine, meanwhile, are putting together two of the finest rookies seasons in NHL history. Both are on pace for around 40 goals as 19-year-olds, a feat few have ever accomplished.
Matthews is already the top centre and player for a Maple Leafs squad that’s chasing an unexpected playoff berth. The Arizona product and California native is on track to break franchise rookie records for goals and points, already becoming the first player in league history to score four goals in an NHL debut. He’s tied for first in the NHL with 20 even-strength goals and increasingly taking on tougher assignments for Leafs coach Mike Babcock.
Laine only recently returned from a concussion, but before that he was scoring in bunches for the Winnipeg Jets. He had two hat tricks less than a month into his NHL career, and now he’s set to take the Staples Centre ice this weekend with Alex Ovechkin, the player he’s long been compared to.
Ovechkin and Crosby â€” playing on the same Metropolitan division team â€” will be among the many familiar faces in LA, joined by P.K. Subban, Carey Price, Shea Weber and Erik Karlsson.
A number of other players will step onto the all-star stage for the first-time â€” 17 of the 40 players in fact.
Among that group is Brad Marchand, a World Cup hero for Team Canada and rising force for the Boston Bruins, hard-hitting, high-scoring Philadelphia winger Wayne Simmonds and Cam Atkinson, the surprise leading scorer of the Columbus Blue Jackets who ranks behind only Crosby in the race for the Rocket Richard trophy with 24 goals.
Other first-time all stars include: Tampa’s Nikita Kucherov and Victor Hedman; Detroit’s Frans Nielsen; Buffalo’s Kyle Okposo; Florida’s Vincent Trocheck; Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon; Vancouver’s Bo Horvat; Anaheim’s Cam Fowler; San Jose’s Martin Jones; Boston’s Tuukka Rask; and Arizona’s Mike Smith.
There certainly be won’t a repeat of last year’s all-star weekend in Nashville when Scott became the show and won MVP â€” an uncomfortable moment for the NHL which advised against his participation.
The NHL instituted a new rule this season seemingly to prevent a repeat scenario down the line. Eligible all-stars are now only as those on an NHL roster as of Nov. 1 and not sent to the AHL by Jan. 26.
Jonas Siegel, The Canadian Press