Who should be the Last Men In representative for the Atlantic Division in the 2020 Honda NHL All-Star Game at Enterprise Center in St. Louis on Jan. 25?
There are eight candidates, one from each team in the division, in the fan vote, which runs through Jan. 10: Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins, Rasmus Dahlin of the Buffalo Sabres, Dylan Larkin of the Detroit Red Wings, Aleksander Barkov of the Florida Panthers, Max Domi of the Montreal Canadiens, Jean-Gabriel Pageau of the Ottawa Senators, Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Mitchell Marner of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The player with the most votes from each of the four divisions will be added to the All-Star Game rosters.
Though fans can make their picks here, three NHL.com writers had their own debate about who should be the pick for the Atlantic.
Dave Stubbs, columnist
As much as he’d probably love a few days off to recharge his batteries for the stretch run toward the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins is my Last Man In for the Atlantic Division.
There’s so much like about this two-time all-star and four-time winner of the Selke Trophy as the NHL’s premier defensive forward. Granted, defensive hockey is a rumor in the All-Star Game, but Bergeron is an all-star in every way. Bergeron belongs in St. Louis this month, one more jewel in his crown with his Hall of Fame plaque waiting for him after his retirement.
Mike Zeisberger, staff writer
Bergeron very much belongs here. But remember this: Bergeron is 34 and a key cog in another Boston Stanley Cup bid. He missed nine games this season with a lower-body injury and would welcome the time off. Keeping that in mind, I’m going with Maple Leafs forward MitchelI Marner. This has nothing to do with a hometown bias on my part and everything to do with the fact that this kid can do special things with the puck I haven’t seen anyone do in my three decades on the job. The All-Star weekend – – both the game and skills competition – – is about entertainment, and few can provide it better than Marner.
Amalie Benjamin, staff writer
While I agree with my esteemed colleagues that Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy is likely on the ABB train — that’s “Anyone But Bergeron” — I think he’ll be safe because I think the guy really deserving of a spot is Aleksander Barkov. The Florida Panthers forward is putting together an impressive season, with 45 points in 40 games (13 goals, 32 assists), which is 13th in the NHL. Barkov won an NHL.com poll this summer as the most underrated player in the League, a mantle that used to belong to Bergeron before everyone woke up. But if Barkov keeps playing this way, he’ll shed that sooner rather than later. The next step toward that would be winning the Last Men In vote and heading to St. Louis in a couple of weeks.
Amalie’s point about Barkov is right on the mark in terms of him perhaps being the best star player no one knows about. But this is about selling the All-Star Weekend brand. This is, as I pointed out earlier, about providing entertainment. Most of all, this is about highlighting the sizzle, the buzz, the “wow factor” of All-Star Weekend. Marner brings that. How much fun would it be to watch him play with Toronto teammate Auston Matthews, already selected to the team? (And to those who, again, accuse me of hometown bias, watch the kid play. Case closed).
The case is never closed, Mike. You and Amalie make excellent cases for Marner and Barkov, two fine choices. But I’d argue that the All-Star Game is about more than flash and sizzle. There’s room for players whose star quality is a little more quiet; subtle, understated. Gordie Howe wasn’t coach Scotty Bowman’s choice for Mr. Hockey’s 23rd and final All-Star Game in 1980 because he was a dazzling sniper. Sorry, Patrice, but I still want you in St. Louis.
You want sizzle, Zeis? I’ll throw you some sizzle. Let’s talk about Jean-Gabriel Pageau of the Ottawa Senators. Back when the Senators were on their way to the Eastern Conference Final in 2017, Pageau opted for two chicken parm sandwiches before Game 2 of the second-round series against the New York Rangers. He responded with four goals in a 6-5 overtime win. I replicated this feat — the chicken parm sandwiches, not the four goals — and can argue that Pageau is truly a warrior. So if you don’t like my previous pick of Barkov, I’ll stand you Pageau (18 goals, 11 assists) as an alternate, as long as he partakes in some fried chicken slathered with tomato sauce and cheese on a bun before he heads out to play in the All-Star Game.