Who should be the Last Men In representative for the Pacific 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 Friday: Ryan Getzlaf of the Anaheim Ducks, Clayton Keller of the Arizona Coyotes, Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Edmonton Oilers, Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings, Tomas Hertl of the San Jose Sharks, Quinn Hughes of the Vancouver Canucks and Max Pacioretty of the Vegas Golden Knights.
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 Pacific.
Tim Campbell, staff writer
I’ll confess I’m borrowing my colleague Dan Rosen’s theme from the Central Division roundtable that All-Star weekend needs a rookie defenseman or two, so I will risk incurring the wrath of my fellow debaters and advocate for Hughes. Like Cale Makar of the Colorado Avalanche, whom Dan was championing, Hughes can provide exactly what the 3-on-3 All-Star Game is made for and that’s swiftness and skill. Hughes is Vancouver’s most productive defenseman with 30 points (four goals, 26 assists) in 42 games and is averaging 21:21 per game. His vision on the ice has helped him have a noticeable impact throughout the first half of the season.
Pete Jensen, senior fantasy editor
I have a ton of respect for this season’s class of rookie defensemen – Makar and Hughes are two of the 10 most valuable players at their position from a fantasy standpoint as well. That said, Pacioretty has the best case of any of these Pacific Division Last Men In candidates. I expected Vegas to be leading the division by this time of the season and they are despite a diminished role for veteran center Paul Stastny and some underwhelming stretches of play for the offense as a whole. Pacioretty, whose NHL career high in points is 67 (twice), leads the Golden Knights with 44 points (19 goals, 25 assists) in 46 games and is up there among the NHL’s most consistent left wings with at least a point in 30 of his games. He has even produced at a high level on a line with center Chandler Stephenson, who was acquired from the Washington Capitals on Dec. 3. Pacioretty, an elite goal-scorer for years with the Montreal Canadiens, has taken his game to the next level this season and deserves to be represented in St. Louis later this month.
Shawn P. Roarke, Senior Director of Editorial
Gaudreau is the most dynamic player on a list that features eight deserving candidates. Nobody on this list can do the things he can do with a puck. Let’s not forget, he had 36 goals last season and finished with 99 points. Those numbers translate well into the All-Star Game format, where Gaudreau can show off his speed and puck-handling. Plus, Gaudreau is getting hot at the right time. He has 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in his past 17 games, so he could be flying high when the All-Star game rolls around in a little more than two weeks.
Valid point about Gaudreau and how he thrives on the All-Star Game stage and in the 3-on-3 format. He’s also been impressive in the skills competition, winning the NHL Puck Control event in each of the past two years. I guess part of me just wants to see Pacioretty, who’s never been an NHL All-Star but ranks top 10 in goals since 2011-12 (247; eighth) on the ice with some of the best centers in the game, whether it’s Connor McDavid of the Oilers, Anze Kopitar of the Kings or Elias Pettersson of the Canucks out of the Pacific Division. Look at what Pacioretty has done throughout his career from a goal-scoring standpoint with centers like David Desharnais, Phillip Danault, Cody Eakin and now Stephenson. Pacioretty has seen time with Stastny since they joined the Golden Knights, with their best stretch coming in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season, but they haven’t played together nearly as much as we all expected. Pacioretty has a rare blend of physicality, shooting accuracy and skill that I think would be a marvel to watch on the ice with an elite center.
Given that my regard for Gaudreau and Pacioretty is strong, I may be a bit out of character pushing for a rookie. Each of those veteran forwards would be worthy additions. But therein lies the problem for me; they’re forwards, and I already feel this Pacific Division team is going to be challenged with some disjointedness, given that seven forwards and one defenseman have been named to the team (in addition to goalies Darcy Kuemper of the Coyotes and Marc-Andre Fleury of the Golden Knights). Defense will not be the name of the game in the 3-on-3 tournament and Hughes will certainly enhance a 3-on-3, attack-oriented game with creativity from the back end, where the Pacific team will need that perspective. With three waves of skaters in these 3-on-3 games, the Pacific will have at least one shift of three forwards as it stands. I think it’ll be better if they don’t have a second and adding Hughes as the second defenseman on the team is the best way to go about completing their lineup.
Look here, it’s an All-Star Game. I don’t care about disjointedness or the righting of past wrongs. I want to be entertained. Name Gaudreau to the team and play him as rover to address the imbalance between forwards and defensemen. Just get him in the lineup. As Pete mentioned, he is a proven commodity in this format, unlike Pacioretty or Hughes. I want to be lifted out of my seat and aside from some players already named to the team, Gaudreau, with the puck on his stick, has the best chance of doing that.