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Ranking every 2018 NHL All-Star from least to most deserving

From Brian Boyle to Connor McDavid, here’s everyone partying in Tampa.

2017 Honda NHL All-Star Game Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images

Not every NHL All-Star is created equally. The league uses a fan vote and requires that each of its 31 teams send at least one player to the annual extravaganza, so there are inevitably choices that aren’t necessarily deserved on merit alone.

The result is that we’ve had some pretty mediocre NHL All-Stars over the past decade, from Rick DiPietro and Mike Komisarek in the late 2000s to John Scott, Zemgus Girgensons, and Leo Komarov in recent years. Crosbys and Ovechkins of the world, these players were not.

This year doesn’t quite have anyone on the same level as Scott, the longtime journeyman who made the 2016 All-Star Game after an online campaign to vote him in, but the 2018 class of All-Stars still ranges in quality from no-brainer MVP candidates to some more questionable selections.

With the big weekend starting Saturday in Tampa, let’s break down who is most and least deserving to be there. This is sorted out into tiers to simplify things a bit, although I will surely get yelled at on social media for these rankings anyway.

Injury replacements

47. Brian Boyle

46. Mike Smith

45. Zach Werenski

Thoughts: It seemed reasonable to simply place injury replacements at the bottom of the list since they didn’t make the initial roster, but these three are in wildly different situations. Boyle, the replacement for Taylor Hall, was selected partially because of his heartwarming story. He only has 17 points in 38 games this season. But Smith and Werenski, the replacements for Jonathan Quick and Seth Jones, have arguably been as good or better than the guys they’re replacing.

The questionable calls

44. Braden Holtby

43. Kris Letang

42. Marc-Andre Fleury

41. Jonathan Quick

Thoughts: These are the four names that stand out to me from the All-Star picks as earning their spots off reputation more than anything. None of them were necessary to cover team requirements. Holtby over Sergei Bobrovsky is inexplicable. Letang over Zach Werenski, John Carlson, and Ivan Provorov is also questionable. And while Fleury and Quick have been very good, Smith and John Gibson arguably had stronger claims to those spots in the Pacific.

“We needed to fill your team requirement”

40. Carey Price

39. Rickard Rakell

38. Mike Green

37. Eric Staal

36. Oliver Ekman-Larsson

35. Noah Hanifin

Thoughts: These guys are all having okay-to-good seasons, but they wouldn’t necessarily be All-Stars if it wasn’t for the one-player-per-team rule. Even Price, often considered the best goalie in the world, only has a .905 save percentage this season. But the Canadiens, Ducks, Red Wings, Wild, Coyotes, and Hurricanes needed to send somebody, so these were the guys to squeak in.

The teammate debates

34. James Neal (vs. Jonathan Marchessault)

33. Josh Bailey (vs. Mathew Barzal)

32. Aleksander Barkov (vs. Jonathan Huberdeau)

31. Brayden Schenn (vs. Vladimir Tarasenko)

30. Tyler Seguin (vs. Jamie Benn)

29. Claude Giroux (vs. Jakub Voracek and Sean Couturier)

28. Brad Marchand (vs. Patrice Bergeron)

27. Sidney Crosby (vs. Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin)

Thoughts: These guys are a bit different from the above group in that they’re all deserving All-Stars, but it’s fair to wonder whether they had more deserving teammates. For example, as good as Barkov has been, it’s actually Huberdeau who leads the Panthers in points. Even Crosby has been outscored by Phil Kessel this season. These were all worthy selections, but the NHL easily could’ve picked others from the same teams.

The no-brainer picks

26. Connor Hellebuyck

25. Brent Burns

24. Pekka Rinne

23. Brock Boeser

22. Seth Jones

21. Patrick Kane

20. Erik Karlsson

19. Taylor Hall

18. Jack Eichel

17. Andrei Vasilevskiy

16. Blake Wheeler

15. Anze Kopitar

14. Alex Pietrangelo

13. Auston Matthews

12. Henrik Lundqvist

11. John Klingberg

10. Johnny Gaudreau

9. Drew Doughty

8. John Tavares

7. Nathan MacKinnon

6. Victor Hedman

5. Nikita Kucherov

Thoughts: And now we get to the guys whose All-Star status isn’t really debatable. These guys have played at an exceptionally high level, and they don’t have teammates who could reasonably lay claim to their spots. You can surely quibble with the specific order in which I’ve ranked these guys, but anyone would be hard-pressed making an argument that they shouldn’t have been invited to Tampa.

The captains

4. P.K. Subban

3. Alex Ovechkin

2. Steven Stamkos

1. Connor McDavid

Thoughts: A quartet of no-brainer selections by the fans who would’ve made the game even if others were voted in. These are four of the most talented, popular players in hockey, and they’re all worthy picks for captaincy at the 2018 NHL All-Star Game. You can definitely argue that Kucherov should’ve won over Stamkos, or MacKinnon should’ve won over Subban, but there’s little debate as to whether these four are deserving.