By Alyssa Naimoli
The 2017 NHL All-Star Game is taking place in Los Angeles this weekend and the talent-filled rosters have as much star power as possible. For the devout hockey fan, the names below will certainly ring a bell, but for those who just tune in here and there, these young stars might have flown under your radar.
Here are five players you’ll want to keep your eye on this All-Star Game:
1. Patrik Laine
Winnipeg Jets rookie Patrik Laine has recovered from his concussion just in time to take the ice as the youngest NHL All-Star at 18 years old. Laine is second amongst rookies in terms of goals (21) and third in points (38) in his 43 games. The rookie’s skill level and potential has been compared to that of Alexander Ovechkin and it is likely that this All-Star Game will be the first of many for the young Jet.
Laine will be playing alongside and against some of the best NHL players in the league. It is worth keeping an eye on Laine to see how he stacks up next to NHL elite talents and how he compares to fellow rookie, Auston Matthews.
2. Auston Matthews
Toronto Maple Leafs rookie Auston Matthews is arguably the most exciting player to watch this season. This weekend will be no different as the Toronto game-changer gets ready for the All-Star matchups and for the eyes of the NHL world to be on him. Watching Matthews play alongside some of the NHL’s most elite players will be enchanting, especially when he faces Laine, Connor McDavid, and other comparable players.
Matthews leads all NHL rookies with 23 goals and 39 points. In fact, his 23 goals also makes him the fourth-highest scorer in the league. The rookie has been a staple in Toronto’s success this season. The Leafs went from finishing last in the Atlantic Division last season to where the team currently sits, in third place in the Atlantic Division.
3. Connor McDavid
Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid, commonly dubbed the Oilers’ “savior,” will finally make his All-Star debut after having missed last season’s game due to injury. The Pacific Division captain is sure to make a big impression in his first All-Star game in typical McDavid fashion.
McDavid is currently posting 16 goals and 57 points, which is already exceeding his shortened 2015-16 season. There is also some suspicion that McDavid might break Dylan Larkin’s record speed (13.172 seconds) set last season in the All-Star game’s fastest skater competition. All eyes will be on McDavid from the moment he steps onto the ice, whether he’s about to skate his lap at the aforementioned contest, or is simply getting the puck to the net.
4. Cam Atkinson
Cam Atkinson was considered the All-Star Game’s biggest snub this season, that is, until the Blue Jackets’ forward was added to the roster last-minute in place of Evgeni Malkin, who will miss the game due to injury. Atkinson is the second-highest scorer in with league with his 24 goals and he’s tied for eighth in points with 46.
The forward has been a staple in Columbus’ explosive success this season and a new career-high goal total is just four goals away. Atkinson will be worth watching to see what performance he can put forward, especially as a previously snubbed player who got the late opportunity to show his stuff.
5. Wayne Simmonds
The Philadelphia Flyers’ leading goal-scorer (20 goals, 37 points), Wayne Simmonds, will make his All-Star debut this weekend. Simmonds has been a major contributor to the Flyers’ success this season and is on his way to creating new career-highs. The Flyers are chasing the playoffs with great determination and Simmonds has been a staple in that determination and skill.
Simmonds is flattered by his All-Star nomination and wasn’t sure he is comparable to the NHL’s best, but he is preparing to put his all into the game for his team. The winger will take his place among the Metropolitan Division’s highly-skilled roster and it will be interesting to see how Simmonds can contribute to the anticipated star power of the division.
The NHL All-Star Skills Competition will take place Saturday, Jan 28 at 4:00 p.m. ET and the All-Star Game will take place Sunday, Jan 29 at 12:30 p.m. ET.