The LA Kings are the only Western Conference team sending three players to the All-Star Game.
Center Anze Kopitar, goaltender Jonathan Quick and defenseman Drew Doughty have been selected to represent the Pacific Division in the 2018 NHL All-Star Game at Amalie Arena, the National Hockey League announced today.
The game takes place on Sunday, January 28 in Tampa Bay.
The story is in the first line; on an eleven-man Pacific Division roster, LA is taking up three of the spots. Aside from Tampa (four selections for the home team), no other team is sending more than two players to the All-Star Game. And though everyone is talking about snubs — how did Jonathan Marchessault get left out? — no one is complaining about the Three Kings being the westward leading group.
More of the story, for me at least, is that it’s these three guys. It took until their average age exceeded 30, but we finally got the three players most synonymous with LA’s golden era to this shindig all at once. Since 2008, only one NHL All-Star Game hasn’t had at least one of these players; that was the 2009 edition, featuring Dustin Brown. (He has more points than Rickard Rakell, who’s going to Tampa, but four players might’ve been overkill for this team.) It took two Cups for the league to get two of the three to an ASG, which they did in 2015 and 2016. This year? It would have been impossible not to take two of them, and almost as impossible not to take three.
Doughty was a lock. In terms of counting stats, he was a shoo-in, as he leads Pacific defensemen in assists, points, ice time, plus-minus, and even strength production. And honestly, if anyone could get chosen even without the counting stats, it’d be Doughty. Even Oliver Ekman-Larsson reducing the pool of potential picks didn’t make a dent.
Quick was almost as much of a sure bet. The strong years of Marc-Andre Fleury and John Gibson meant that there was at least worthy competition at the spot, but if you take out Fleury’s 12-game stats, Quick leads Pacific starters in wins, GAA, save percentage, and shutouts. Not a tough choice.
And how do you leave out Kopitar? Sure, the forward group in the Pacific is the toughest to crack, especially since Brock Boeser, Johnny Gaudreau, and Connor McDavid were sure bets to represent their squads. Kopitar’s tremendous start and LA’s lofty spot in the standings ensured that his name would be near the forefront, though, and even cooling off in the last month didn’t take away from his excellence at both ends of the ice.
Looking at last season, this outcome was unlikely. Kopitar’s bounceback was inevitable, but I wasn’t sure it’d occur to this degree. Quick was injured for most of 2016-17, and his form was anything but a sure thing. And even Doughty, who made the All-Star team and generally had a strong season, took a step back from a Norris campaign and saw his point totals, ice time, and possession numbers drop. These three aren’t young, and you’d expect their performance to decline (if only slightly) as their careers wear on; instead, they’re each putting up regular seasons which would rank in the top three of their careers if they kept their pace.
It remains to be seen if we get a repeat of 2015-16, when Kopitar (Selke), Doughty (Norris), and Quick (Vezina) each found themselves in awards contention after after 82 games and not just 42. For now, though, it’s an admirable feat for LA’s three core players.