It’s NHL All-Star Weekend, when the best players in hockey congregate in one location — this year, it’s South Florida — to show off their skills.
Well, most of the best players.
This year, the initial 32 All-Stars were selected by the NHL hockey operations department, with each team given one representative. Then, three more players in each division (two skaters and one goalie) were chosen by fan vote. Throw in a few injury replacements (also picked by the league) and you’ve got your All-Star teams.
But the selection process wasn’t perfect. And that’s where we come in. It’s time to address the most notable All-Star snubs of 2023.
To clarify, players who were selected or would have been selected if not for injury don’t count. We’re only focused on the players who could have attended the weekend’s All-Star festivities, but were left out, whether by league decision (in the case of initial team representative/injury replacement) or neglect in the fan vote. And then, just to make things fun, the players who are in Florida but should have been left out in favor of our five snubs.
Vince Dunn — D — Seattle
Should be in for: Chandler Stephenson (Vegas)
The Seattle Kraken are one of the NHL’s best stories of the year. In just their second season of existence, they not only are poised for a surprise playoff berth, they’re currently leading the entire Pacific Division.
So of course, they don’t have a single All-Star representative.
That seems fair.
In the NHL’s defense, the Kraken did initially get their league-mandated one representative in Calder Trophy favorite Matty Beniers. But when Beniers had to drop out of the game due to injury, he wasn’t replaced with a teammate. Instead, Vegas’ Chandler Stephenson took his spot, leaving the Kraken without a single attendee.
This isn’t a slight against Stephenson. He’s having a fine year for the Golden Knights, though he almost certainly wouldn’t be leading the team in scoring if teammate Mark Stone hadn’t just underwent back surgery. But Stephenson — with just 11 goals and below a point-per-game pace (44 in 51 games) — isn’t having a transcendent season that would justify shutting the Kraken out of the game entirely. And Vegas already had goalie Logan Thompson heading to South Florida. They didn’t need another representative.
So who would be the best choice from Seattle instead? Let’s go with Dunn, who is in the midst of a breakout season at age 26.
No, Dunn’s offensive numbers — 36 points in 49 games — aren’t eye-popping. But he does rank 12th among NHL defensemen, so he’s no slouch from a scoring standpoint. His biggest strength, however, has come in his ability to drive play for the Kraken on their top pair with Adam Larsson. His 54.16 percent expected goals share at five-on-five leads the Seattle blue line corps, and he ranks in the 88th percentile leaguewide in isolated xG impact (per Evolving-Hockey’s RAPM model) among NHL defensemen as well.