The Canucks have sent a rookie to the All-Star Game in each of the last two seasons.
Brock Boeser went to the 2018 All-Star Game and dominated, winning the accuracy competition and the All-Star Game MVP. In 2019, it was Elias Pettersson’s turn, surprising everyone with his blazing speed in the fastest skater competition.
This season, the Canucks once again have an elite rookie, who absolutely deserves to go to the All-Star Game. But when the NHL revealed the All-Star rosters on Monday, Quinn Hughes was nowhere to be found.
The All-Star teams have been split by division since the introduction of a brief “tournament” instead of one All-Star game in 2016. The Pacific Division team has just one representative from the Vancouver Canucks — Elias Pettersson — which means not only Hughes was snubbed, but also Jacob Markstrom, who is second among Pacific Division goaltenders in save percentage, behind only Darcy Kuemper, who was named to the team.
Pettersson's nod is, of course, well-deserved. The sophomore centre is 13th in the NHL in scoring with 41 points in 40 games, finding ways to score despite the increased focus that he's received from other teams. Opposing teams spend a lot of energy trying to shut Pettersson down, but he just keeps putting up points. His line with J.T. Miller and Brock Boeser ranks among the league's best lines at 5-on-5 and he's a big reason why the Canucks have one of the most dangerous power plays in the NHL.
Here’s the roster for the Pacific Division:
- Jakob Silfverberg, ANA
- Darcy Kuemper, ARI
- Matthew Tkachuk, CGY
- Mark Giordano, CGY
- Connor McDavid, EDM
- Leon Draisaitl, EDM
- Anze Kopitar, LAK
- Logan Couture, SJS
- Elias Pettersson, VAN
- Marc-Andre Fleury, VGK
Keeping in mind that each team needs a representative at the All-Star Game, it’s hard to argue with most of this list. Sure, you could argue that Silfverberg, Kopitar, and Couture don’t deserve to go ahead of other players based on their current seasons, but they’re understandable representatives of their teams.
You could even quibble with Fleury going ahead of Markstrom, but if the Pacific-leading Golden Knights are only going to send one player, it may as well be the charming and charismatic Fleury.
The one name that sticks out, however, is Giordano. The Flames’ rearguard won the 2019 Norris Trophy as the best defenceman in the NHL, but he’s not exactly having an All-Star season in 2019-20.
After 74 points last season, Giordano has just 19 points through 41 games, a 38-point pace. He’s still been solid defensively for the Flames, but “solid” does not usually get a player to the All-Star Game.
Naming Hughes to the All-Star Game would have made a lot more sense. Why wouldn’t the NHL want one of the most dynamic and exciting young defencemen in the NHL on the ice entertaining the fans in a 3-on-3 format?
Hughes has 9 more points than Giordano, but beyond just the point totals, Hughes has had a massive impact on the way the Canucks play, both at even-strength and on the power play. Hughes is the quarterback on the first unit for the team with the most power play goals in the NHL. He’s fourth among defencemen in assists — first among Pacific Division defencemen — and is first among Pacific Division defencemen in power play points. For fancy stat fans, Hughes has a significantly better corsi percentage than Giordano and a better expected goals percentage too.
That’s while leading all rookies in ice time per game, as the Canucks coaching staff has thrown the rookie into the deep end, knowing he can do more than just keep his head afloat. Hughes is already proving himself as one of the best defencemen in the NHL and he deserves to be the third-straight Canucks rookie to go to the All-Star Game.
Fortunately, there’s still a way Hughes can get there.
Last season, the NHL introduced the “Last Men In” fan vote, a compromise to the more comprehensive fan voting they’ve had in the past that led to what the NHL viewed as embarrassing situations like the “Vote for Rory” campaign and the fan campaign that got John Scott to the 2016 All-Star Game, where he won MVP.
The “Last Men In” vote is limited to a select list of players, one from each team, which prevents write-in votes. The vote will open on January 1st and close on January 10th, with fans able to vote 10 times per day.
The candidate for the Canucks is, unsurprisingly, Quinn Hughes.
Yes, Hughes should have been on the initial roster rather than being dependent on an arbitrary fan vote, but at least the opportunity for him to go to the All-Star Game is there.
Hughes isn’t even the only rookie defenceman that will need the “Last Men In” vote to go to the All-Star Game. Cale Makar, who deserves a spot on the Central Division roster, got snubbed in favour of three players being named from the host St. Louis Blues.
So, when the fan vote opens on January 1st, vote early and vote often. At the very least, vote Hughes so that the Pacific Division will have more than one defenceman on the roster.