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Filling NHL All-Star Game roster no easy task

by Corey Masisak
Quick, there is one spot left open at the Tim Hortons 2012 NHL All-Star Game roster -- should Patrice Bergeron be in Ottawa or Tyler Seguin? What about Jamie Benn or Loui Eriksson? Dan Hamhuis or Duncan Keith?

These are just a few of the tough decisions our crew -- Dave Lozo, Corey Masisak, Shawn Roarke and Dan Rosen -- faced Tuesday afternoon as they tried to name the 36 remaining all-stars and 12 young stars for the All-Star Game later this month at Ottawa's Scotiabank Place.

The task was simple -- choose the most deserving five goaltenders, 10 defensemen, 21 forwards and 12 rookies to join the six players selected in fan balloting: Boston goalie Tim Thomas, Toronto defenseman Dion Phaneuf and the Ottawa contingent of defenseman Erik Karlsson and forwards Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek.

This was just an exercise to illustrate the intricacies involved in the process. The League's Hockey Operations Department is doing it for real right now and the official fills will be announced Thursday.

Making our 48 selections proved to be a bit tougher than expected.

Each of the four members of the "committee" submitted a list. There were some unanimous choices, but there was also plenty of discussion and number-crunching as well. All 30 NHL teams are represented, and players who might be injured and miss the weekend were not penalized -- there were some near-misses who will prove to be fine injury replacements.

Here's our list of projected 2012 NHL All-Stars, and check out the chart below for some analysis on each position:

Tim Thomas Erik Karlsson Daniel Alfredsson Justin Faulk
Jimmy Howard Dion Phaneuf Jason Spezza Gabriel Landeskog
Jonathan Quick Zdeno Chara Milan Michalek Ryan Johansen
Carey Price Duncan Keith Teemu Selanne Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Henrik Lundqvist Nicklas Lidstrom Patrice Bergeron Nick Johnson
Brian Elliott Brian Campbell Thomas Vanek Craig Smith
    Ryan Suter Jarome Iginla Adam Larsson
    Shea Weber Jonathan Toews Adam Henrique
    Dan Girardi Marian Hossa Carl Hagelin
    Kimmo Timonen Loui Eriksson Colin Greening
    Keith Yandle Pavel Datsyuk Matt Read
    Brent Burns Jordan Eberle Cody Hodgson
        John Tavares    
        Marian Gaborik    
        Claude Giroux    
        Evgeni Malkin    
        James Neal    
        Steven Stamkos    
        Phil Kessel    
        Joffrey Lupul    
        Daniel Sedin    
        Henrik Sedin    
        Nicklas Backstrom    
        Evander Kane    

GOALIES: Henrik Lundqvist, Jimmy Howard and Jonathan Quick were unanimous selections to join Thomas, which left only two remaining spots. Carey Price earned a place and was neighboring Montreal's lone representative. The discussion for the final spot in net came down to five guys. Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury and Nashville's Pekka Rinne were eliminated quickly, and Brian Elliott beat out Minnesota's Niklas Backstrom and Mike Smith of Phoenix. Elliott hasn't played in as many games, but his numbers are spectacular. He carried the Blues before coach Ken Hitchcock got there and, let's face it, it would be a fantastically juicy storyline should the ex-Senators goaltender return to Ottawa as an All-Star.

DEFENSEMEN: There were six unanimous guys here -- Zdeno Chara, Ryan Suter, Shea Weber, Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Campbell and Dan Girardi. The next three in were Keith Yandle, Kimmo Timonen and Brent Burns, though Burns had to beat out teammate Dan Boyle. The final spot came down to Duncan Keith or one of Vancouver's deserving trio of Alexander Edler, Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa. Edler had the best offensive numbers, but Keith plays the most. Vancouver fans, please direct any critiques of this decision to @DaveLozo on Twitter. Others who had at least one vote included Washington's Dennis Wideman, Winnipeg's Dustin Byfuglien and Boston's Dennis Seidenberg.

FORWARDS: This is where the toughest decisions had to be made. There were 15 unanimous choices, which left only six spots for about 37 candidates. One of those spots was quickly filled by Teemu Selanne -- mostly because Rosen was shown the fallacy of his decision to not include the Finnish Flash on his initial list. Another spot was reserved for either Tyler Seguin or Patrice Bergeron. Both are deserving but other teams needed representation, and Bergeron's overall game won out despite Seguin's penchant for making the highlight reels.

The final four spots all went to guys who would be the lone representative for their clubs. Evander Kane, John Tavares and Jarome Iginla may not have the same numbers as a few of the guys left off the list, but Iginla is a legend, while Kane and Tavares are rising stars in this League.

Loui Eriksson edged out teammate Jamie Benn for the final spot, despite the protest from Roarke, who lobbied hard for Philadelphia's Scott Hartnell and his career year, not to mention his bountiful locks of hair. Others who just missed the cut included Los Angeles' Anze Kopitar, Buffalo's Jason Pominville, Phoenix's Radim Vrbata and Florida's Kris Versteeg. Among the surprises who received zero votes included Alex Ovechkin, Chicago's Patrick Kane and 2010-11 MVP Corey Perry.

ROOKIES: Nine of the 12 rookies were unanimous choices, and each of the remaining teams without a guy in the All-Star Game added a representative among those nine. The final three spots came down to four guys. Hometown hero Colin Greening (a Newfoundland native, which pleased a certain Managing Editor) was added, as well as Vancouver's Cody Hodgson. The final spot came down to Carl Hagelin or Buffalo's Luke Adam. Hagelin hasn't been in the League for the full season, but his strong play trumped Adam's recent slump. Rosen already likes Hagelin as a dark horse in the fastest skater contest..

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