ESPN workersFeb 3, 2024, 08:00 AM ET
After a humorous All-Star participant draft on Thursday and an exciting night time of All-Star abilities on Friday, it is time for the ultimate occasion of 2024 NHL All-Star Weekend: the sport(s)!
It is a easy format: two semifinals of 3-on-3 hockey, adopted by the winners of these video games squaring off within the remaining. First up will likely be Group MacKinnon vs. Group McDavid at 3 p.m. ET, then Group Hughes vs. Group Matthews at 4 p.m. ET, adopted by the championship recreation at 5 p.m. ET. All three video games will likely be broadcast on ABC, and simulcast on ESPN+.
Earlier than the video games start, which line mixtures are we most excited to see? Which draft picks had been probably the most questionable? And who will win all of it?
What lineup trio are you most excited to see?
Ryan S. Clark, NHL reporter: Any mixture from Group Hughes that options some mixture of Quinn Hughes, Brock Boeser, Kyle Connor, J.T. Miller, Brady Tkachuk or Frank Vatrano. That quantities to 6 elite American gamers, and any a kind of three who’re on the ice additional justifies what makes the United States look extremely promising within the buildup to the 2025 4 Nations tournament and the Olympics in 2026.
Victoria Matiash, NHL analyst: If tossed collectively, give me Nikita Kucherov‘s imaginative and prescient and playmaking talents in concord with Kyle Connor’s knack for placing the puck within the internet, together with all the things Brady Tkachuk does fantastically, when others on Group Hughes are resting on the bench.
Arda Öcal, NHL broadcaster: Nathan MacKinnon–Sidney Crosby offers us the Nova Scotia connection, buddies who occasion at one another’s Stanley Cup celebrations again residence over the summer season, and two of the very best gamers in historical past. Add a human spotlight reel in Kirill Kaprizov — yeah, that is a heck of a trio proper there.
Kristen Shilton, NHL reporter: I am feeling a David Pastrnak–Connor McDavid–Leon Draisaitl scenario. It appeared like Group McDavid was the quieter group in Thursday’s draft, however their squad is sneaky good. And given the historical past between Draisaitl and Pastrnak that has by no means (till now) translated into them having the ability to play collectively in an occasion of this magnitude — I believe it might be fairly cool to see.
Greg Wyshynski, NHL reporter: You have to give the folks what they need. And by “folks” I imply all these Leafs lovers within the enviornment who wish to see their guys placed on a present on residence. Toss Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander and Morgan Rielly‘s title in a hat, pull out a trio and watch them ship a (glorified exhibition recreation time beyond regulation) championship to the Centre of the Hockey Universe.
What was probably the most questionable draft choice?
Clark: Sam Reinhart going within the fifth spherical to Group McDavid. For starters, they did not want extra targets. They’ve the three gamers — McDavid, Draisaitl and Pastrnak — who completed first, second and third in factors final season.
However past that, an argument might be made Reinhart ought to have gone greater. A perennial 20-goal scorer, he has already achieved a 3rd straight 30-goal season and is on tempo to complete with greater than 60; he sits second within the goal-scoring race proper now, with 37. We suppose a 27.6% taking pictures share helps.
Matiash: I am not suggesting Tom Wilson does not carry his personal model of panache to any roster, in any type of competitors, however I am additionally in all probability not selecting the Capitals ahead earlier than Reinhart or Filip Forsberg or Vincent Trocheck, as Group MacKinnon did Thursday night.
Öcal: An excessive amount of of the captains sticking to their NHL teammates for me general. I get it, you wish to play together with your boys, however I might have cherished some mix-and-match — we did not even get a commerce! By way of one particular choice, it was Alexandar Georgiev to Group MacKinnon. I might have cherished the drama of seeing him chosen by one other staff, then MacKinnon, Cale Makar and Tate McRae having to orchestrate a commerce.
Shilton: Vincent Trocheck touchdown within the backside 4 was loopy to me. He is a point-per-game man this season! And whereas all 4 groups had chosen scoring expertise to that stage of the night time, it nonetheless felt like Trocheck ought to have been off the board properly earlier than Dave Keon got here out and handed him his secret envelope. I am taking a look at him to have a giant recreation on Saturday simply to point out the opposite captains how badly they whiffed.
Wyshynski: I nonetheless assume protection wins championships, so I nonetheless assume that the appropriate goaltenders can win the All-Star Recreation match. To the opposite three groups that allowed the squad with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl to even have Connor Hellebuyck and Sergei Bobrovsky: What had been you pondering?
Which staff wins the championship?
Clark: Let’s go along with Group MacKinnon. They’ve a number of gamers who can rating and create for others. Having a goaltending tandem of Georgiev and Jeremy Swayman additionally helps. But the element that might show probably the most pivotal is that they’ve a lot of gamers with two-way potential, which could give them a bonus in these late-game conditions, making an attempt to carry a lead.
Matiash: Group McDavid consists of the very best skater on the earth, arguably the highest goaltender within the recreation in Connor Hellebuyck, a Boston winger who may discover himself an eventual Hart Trophy nominee, the participant with the second-most targets to this point, and one of many higher two-way forwards in Boone Jenner (an underrated asset, for my part). Oh, and Leon Draisaitl. If Group Matthews does not derive an excessive amount of further oomph from taking part in in entrance of the hometown crowd, I like this squad’s possibilities.
Öcal: Group Leafs … err, Matthews acquired the job finished in entrance of the house crowd on the draft Thursday, and I say the nice vibes proceed Saturday. With the groups constructed how they’re, we may hear probably the most booing we have heard ever at an All-Star Recreation. Group Matthews vs. Group Hughes within the opening spherical … Leafs vs. Canucks … Group Hughes will certainly be taking part in the position of the heel in Toronto for that one.
Shilton: I am going to additionally take Group Matthews. They’re acquired familiarity (with all 4 Maple Leafs collectively), their goaltenders (Jake Oettinger and Igor Shesterkin) are unimaginable, they usually’ll simply be having plenty of enjoyable — which may translate into success! Plus, you understand the hometown crowd may have their backs. Matthews’ crew may run away with this factor.
Wyshynski: The Can-Am Connection on Group Hughes. We have now a staff with the core 5 gamers from the first-place Vancouver Canucks together with American heroes Brady Tkachuk, Kyle Connor and basic supervisor Jack Hughes. Oh, and a few man named Nikita Kucherov who’s main the NHL in scoring on the break.