ARIZONA COYOTES

Coyotes standouts: Who has a shot at the NHL All-Star lineup?

Dec 3, 2019, 4:22 PM | Updated: 4:28 pm
Goaltender Darcy Kuemper #35 of the Arizona Coyotes during the second period of the NHL game agains...
Goaltender Darcy Kuemper #35 of the Arizona Coyotes during the second period of the NHL game against the Nashville Predators at Gila River Arena on October 17, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The NHL opened its All-Star fan voting ballot over the weekend, again giving fans the opportunity to stuff the proverbial ballot box — digitally, of course — to put their favorite players into this year’s All-Star game.

But which ones deserve to be there?

Every NHL team must have at least one player representing that team at the All-Star weekend. The game itself is actually a tournament that features four teams — one for each division — made up of 11 players (six forwards, three defensemen, two goaltenders). The tournament is a series of 3-on-3 games, hence the small rosters.

Last year’s representative for the Arizona Coyotes was Clayton Keller, one of the Pacific Division’s six forwards. Keller’s name appears on the ballot again this year, along with Darcy Kuemper and Oliver Ekman-Larsson, but fans can write-in any player they’d like. Note that the fan vote is only to decide the division captain before the rest of the teams are filled out by the league.

Here’s a look at current Coyotes players who could make this year’s Pacific Division NHL All-Star squad, entering Tuesday, days after the release of the ballot:

Shoo-in:

G Darcy Kuemper

Entering Tuesday, Kuemper had the highest save percentage in the NHL (.935) among goaltenders who had played at least 10 games. So he certainly ought to deserve consideration as the best goalie in his division, provided that he keep up his play.

With room for two goaltenders on the roster, another Pacific Division goalie could outplay Kuemper before rosters are announced and he’d still be deserving. Since Jan. 1 of this calendar year, Kuemper has the highest save percentage (.934) in the Pacific Division and the third-highest in the whole league. He also has the second-most shutouts (7) in the NHL in that span.

It helps that Kuemper plays behind a solid blue line on a team that emphasizes stingy defense, but there’s only three goalies in the Pacific Division this year who, as of Tuesday, had a save percentage higher than .920 — and two of them play for the Coyotes (the third is Mikko Koskinen of Edmonton).

Toughest competition: Mikko Koskinen (EDM), Marc-Andre Fleury (VGK), Antti Raanta (ARI)

In the mix:

F Christian Dvorak

Dvorak was third in the entire NHL in faceoff percentage (60.0%) and seventh in the division in shooting percentage (18.6%). His point total (16) was only 36th in the division, though, and tied for second on the Coyotes behind Nick Schmaltz (20) entering Tuesday.

He’s a good 200-foot player who produces points, wins faceoffs and plays up the middle of the ice, and is also one of the best Coyotes in possession metrics. Unfortunately for him, though, not being a top point-producer in the division at the moment will hurt his chances at being selected.

Toughest competition: Connor McDavid (EDM), Leon Draisaitl (EDM), Logan Couture (SJS), Anze Kopitar (LAK), Elias Petterson (VAN), Matthew Tkachuk (CGY), Mark Stone (VGK), Max Pacioretty (VGK)

F Conor Garland

Garland’s 10 goals on the year not only lead the Coyotes but were tied for 12th in the Pacific Division going into Tuesday. Only six forwards get selected, though, and he’s not in the top-six in goals or points.

What helps is case is that he is the leading goal-scorer on the Division’s second-place team. He’s also a great story as a fifth-round pick who’s currently making a reported $775,000.

Toughest competition: See above

F Nick Schmaltz

Schmaltz ranks only 20th in the division in points, but his 15 assists are 11th. He’s been arguably the best offensive creator on the Coyotes this year, leading his team in both points and assists, and if the Coyotes were to send a forward, he’d be a very deserving nominee.

Toughest competition: See above

D Alex Goligoski

Goligoski has the fifth-most assists in the Pacific Division among defensemen and the second-most points on the team. He and his defensive partner Jakob Chychrun have been the Coyotes’ best defensive pairing through the first part of the 2019-20 season, and the veteran’s plus-minus of 7 is the second-best among defensemen in the division.

Toughest competition: Quinn Hughes (VAN), Erik Karlsson (SJS), Brent Burns (SJS), Oscar Klefbom (EDM), Mark Giordano (CGY), Cam Fowler (ANA), Jakob Chychrun (ARI)

D Jakob Chychrun

Like Goligoski, Chychrun’s performance this season has been a boon to the Coyotes, who are without Niklas Hjalmarsson. The first-round pick has turned into a productive player at both ends of the ice for Arizona at a time when his team most needed it.

The thing helping his case the most is that he leads the Pacific Division in goals by defensemen with six. Several of those have come when he’s jumped up into a play and scored on a feed off the rush, as opposed to far-out shots from the blue line. That’d be fun to watch in a 3-on-3 setting.

His “point shares,” a catch-all statistic that, granted, is constructed with some subjectivity, is 2.5. That’s the second-best on the Coyotes among defensemen, trailing only Goligoski.

Toughest competition: See above

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