Nick Cotsonika, NHL.com Columnist
The Metropolitan Division has been the best in the NHL this season, but the Atlantic will win the All-Star Game.
Carey Price and Tuukka Rask make an incredible tandem in goal, as good as or better than any other, including Sergei Bobrovsky and Braden Holtby of the Metropolitan.
And this is a 3-on-3 tournament.
Who has two defensemen who can skate in open ice and create offense better than Victor Hedman and Erik Karlsson? OK, maybe the Central with Duncan Keith and P.K. Subban, or the Pacific with Brent Burns and Drew Doughty. But that's why this will be fun to watch.
Who has a defenseman with a better shot as the late man on the rush than Shea Weber? It's the All-Star Game, and no one wants to hurt anyone or get hurt himself. Maybe Weber will take it easy, but all he has to do is wind up. Opponents will scramble out of the way.
Yes, the Metropolitan has Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin and John Tavares. OK, I guess. But this is the year of Auston Matthews. The No. 1 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft has 21 goals, tied for third in the League, and a flair for the dramatic. He scored four times in his NHL debut. He scored twice in the Centennial Classic, including the overtime winner.
It's in Los Angeles and Matthews was born in California, even though he was raised in Arizona. One of the NHL's new stars will be the star of the All-Star Game.
Video: DET@TOR: Matthews wins the game with backhand in OT
Lisa Dillman, NHL.com Staff Writer
The critical part of 3-on-3 is puck control and the first pass out of the zone, so the team with the best defense has the best chance of winning the four-team tournament.
Here, the nod goes to the Atlantic Division.
How can you argue against the likes of multiple Norris Trophy winner Karlsson, Hedman and Weber?
The hardest thing about selecting players for this division was having to leave off, say, Rasmus Ristolainen of the Buffalo Sabres, who is having a standout season with 26 points.
Hedman is having a superb first half; he's second among NHL defensemen in scoring, two points behind Burns. Karlsson is among the leaders in blocked shots, adding more of a defensive component to his game, and continues to be an exceptional offensive threat. Weber, traded from Nashville to Montreal during the offseason, has almost seamlessly anchored the Canadiens defense, to the surprise of no one.
Each is capable of making an intelligent first pass and joining the rush, and every foray out of the zone is clean and efficient.
In the first half of this season, the three have been exceptional, giving the Atlantic an edge in this type of format because so much of the offense in 3-on-3 starts from the defense.
Video: Revealing the 2017 Atlantic Division All-Stars
Brian Compton, NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor
Expect the arrival of Matthews to be the difference for the Atlantic Division.
Matthews, 19, has spearheaded the Maple Leafs' resurgence; seven months after having the No. 1 pick at the NHL draft, Toronto, which used that selection on Matthews, is very much alive in the race to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Through 39 games, Matthews had 21 goals and 14 assists.
Of course, Matthews will have plenty of help. He'll be joined up front by Nikita Kucherov, Brad Marchand and Kyle Okposo. Kucherov is averaging more than a point per game for the Tampa Bay Lightning (41 points through 36 games), and Marchand is leading the Boston Bruins with 35 points (13 goals, 22 assists) in 43 games. Okposo has managed to produce despite injuries to key players (Jack Eichel, Ryan O'Reilly) during the first half of the season and was leading the Buffalo Sabres in scoring through 38 games (12 goals, 15 assists).
But perhaps the Atlantic Division's biggest strength is the back end. It will be led by world-class defensemen Karlsson, Weber and Hedman. Their ability to shine at each end of the ice will play a huge role at the All-Star Game.
Combine the defense with the goaltending the Atlantic Division possesses, and it's difficult to see the Atlantic failing to leave Los Angeles victorious.
Mike Morreale, NHL.com Staff Writer
The All-Star Game is all about offense and which division can consistently gain the zone, turn on the heat and gets shots on the opposing goalie. The Metropolitan Division has been exceptionally strong this season. In fact many believe it is the most competitive division in the NHL. While that's not a prerequisite to All-Star Game success, it carries some merit. There's no reason to believe the stars won't align perfectly for Sidney Crosby in Los Angeles.
In his 12th NHL season, Crosby, 29, will be out to prove he still has what it takes in a League that seems to be getting younger and better.
In addition to Crosby, the star-studded Metropolitan Division offense includes Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin, John Tavares, Taylor Hall and Wayne Simmonds, who might also provide some grit and tenacity in the corners and in the middle of the ice. The defense will be fast, creative and tough with Ryan McDonagh, Justin Faulk and Seth Jones.
Sergei Bobrovsky and Braden Holtby, each among the top five in the NHL in save percentage, should be able to make a few key saves when needed to give their group a chance.
Adam Kimelman, NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor
The Metropolitan Division has been the best in the NHL to this point in the season, so it stands to reason that the division's best players will win the 3-on-3 competition at the All-Star Game.
Scoring won't be an issue with the two of the League's top five scorers in Crosby and Malkin. The options they have on the wings include Ovechkin, the League's top goal scorer during the past 12 seasons; one of the top net-front players in the League in Simmonds; two-time Hart Trophy finalist Tavares and four-time 20-goal scorer Hall.
Jones, McDonagh and Faulk, smooth skaters and outstanding playmakers, make up the defense.
In the net, there's Bobrovsky, who leads the League in wins and played the majority of the minutes during the Blue Jackets' 16-game winning streak, and Holtby, who tied the single-season record with 48 wins last season.
It looks like the other three divisions will be competing for second place.
Amalie Benjamin, NHL.com Staff Writer
It would be hard to argue that any division other than the Metropolitan is the best in the NHL right now, and it would be hard to argue that any division other than the Metropolitan will win the four-team All-Star tournament.
The Metro comes in with some impressive firepower, in Crosby and Malkin, in Ovechkin and Simmonds, in Tavares and Hall. And that's not to mention the goaltending, which boasts two of the top five players in the NHL in Bobrovsky and Holtby.
Combined, this is a team with 98 goals this season, spread among nine skaters. They're led by Crosby, who leads the NHL with 26 despite playing just 33 games.
It's perhaps even more important to note that it boasts a couple of players at the top of the NHL in power-play goals, given the nature of the 3-on-3 tournament. Crosby has nine. Simmonds has eight. Ovechkin has seven. Malkin has six.
That's not to say it will be easy; the Metropolitan Division stars will have to get through the goaltending of Price and Rask in the Atlantic, then either the defensively strong Central or the offense-minded Pacific.
But in the end, they should be victorious, something that truly makes sense in a League in which the division holds the top four spots in the NHL standings.
Tom Gulitti, NHL.com Staff Writer
Picking a winner for the 2017 Honda NHL All-Star Game was even more difficult than selecting the rosters for the four divisions.
Ultimately, it was difficult to go against the Metropolitan Division, which has been the NHL's best this season, and the immense talent it has at forward with Crosby and Malkin teaming with Ovechkin along with Tavares, Hall and Simmonds.
Imagine Crosby and Ovechkin, each of whom are closing in on 1,000 points, playing together in the 3-on-3 format. Crosby and Ovechkin have been in the All-Star game together once -- in 2007. Or maybe you want to put Crosby with Malkin or Malkin with Ovechkin. Tavares, Hall or Simmonds would fit well with any of those three as well.
On defense, the Metropolitan doesn't have the eye-popping offensive talent of some of other divisions but is very solid with McDonagh, Jones and Faulk.
The Metropolitan has two goaltenders who've won the Vezina Trophy in Bobrovsky and Holtby. Each is in the top five in the NHL in goals-against average, save percentage and shutouts. Bobrovsky, who won the Vezina in 2012-13, leads the League with 26 wins. Holtby, who won it last season, is seventh in the League with 19.
Video: Revealing the 2017 Metropolitan Division All-Stars
Shawn P. Roarke, NHL.com Director of Editorial
How can the Central Division not win the 2017 Honda NHL All-Star Game? Who is going to stop that offense?
The Central will trot out some elite goal-scoring talent in Los Angeles. Vladimir Tarasenko is among the best goal-scorers in the League today. He has 20 this season, had 40 last season and will be hard to defend with all the open ice of the 3-on-3 format. Tyler Seguin has 15 goals this season, but has scored 107 combined in the past three seasons. But newcomer Patrick Laine might be better than either one; Laine has 21 goals, tied for the rookie lead with Matthews, and might already possess the best shot in the game. He will be able to fire at will in such a wide-open format. The results could be stunning.
Goal scorers need to be given the puck to be successful and the Central Division has no shortage of gifted players in that department. Patrick Kane has 32 assists, Jonathan Toews has averaged 36 assists and 64 points during the past three seasons. On the blue line, Keith has 28 assists and is an excellent practitioner of the stretch pass. Subban, when healthy, can exploit open ice like few other defenseman.
This team may not give up many goals with its tandem of goaltenders. Devan Dubnyk is having a season for the ages with a 1.80 goals-against average and .939 save percentage. He is among the favorites to win the Vezina Trophy. Corey Crawford is a winner, plain and simple. He has won 30 or more games in each of his five full seasons, as well as 19 in 30 games during the 2012-13 season.
Good luck beating the three-headed monster the Central Division brings to the All-Star table.
Video: Revealing the 2017 Central Division All-Stars
Tim Campbell, NHL.com Staff Writer
It would be wise to favor the Central Division in the four-team 3-on-3 tournament at the 2017 Honda NHL All-Star Game.
All teams have a high quotient of "nose for the net," but the Central is a cut above in that regard. The big openings are easy for the players when it comes to 3-on-3 play. It's the little spaces that the smartest players can turn into scoring chances that will make the difference and Kane, Seguin, Tarasenko, Laine and Nathan MacKinnon excel in that department.
The Central's other forward, Toews, is hardly a laggard when it comes to delivering around the net, but is considered to be one of the most complete players in the game. Though the NHL All-Star Game proved to be a friendly and entertaining event last year in Nashville, Toews' serious side could also turn into a subtle edge for the Central.
For this preview of the 3-on-3 tournament, I decided it was a fool's errand to proclaim any goaltending edge. The eight goalies chosen should each receive handsome extra bonuses for having to submit themselves to this format.
Dan Rosen, NHL.com Senior Writer
Success in a 3-on-3 format requires knowing where the other two guys are going to be, who is going to hang back, who is going to jump out for the stretch pass and if the goalie is going to be an option. Individual play matters, but it's the combined work of four players on the ice, including the goalie, that makes the difference.
The Central Division is the only team that will have as many as four players from the same team, and that's a big reason why it will win the tournament. Blackhawks forwards Kane and Toews can be joined by defenseman Keith and goalie Crawford on the ice at the same time.
The Blackhawks are 7-4 in games decided in overtime this season. Kane and Keith are the only two of Chicago's all-stars with an overtime goal, but no one can honestly say that Toews can't produce in overtime; he just hasn't yet. Crawford is 4-2 in games decided in overtime.
It's more than the Blackhawks, though. Picture Subban rushing the puck up the ice and dishing it off to Seguin so he can shoot or find Laine for a shot. Picture MacKinnon using his speed to find Ryan Suter, who finds Vladimir Tarasenko. Goal.
Picture Dubnyk carrying his Vezina-worthy play into Staples Center.
The Central Division will not be defeated.
Video: Dan Rosen discusses All-Star selections
Arpon Basu, LNH.com Senior Managing Editor
The 3-on-3 format of the All-Star Game will benefit the team with young legs able to turn defense into offense in a hurry.
Goaltending is a relatively minor consideration in this format because of the quality of the chances, odd-man rushes and breakaways with the world's best offensive players attempting to score. The gap between the goaltenders on all four teams is so minimal, it shouldn't be a factor in the outcome.
For that reason, I am choosing the Pacific Division to win the tournament. Martin Jones and Mike Smith make up what is probably the weakest goaltending tandem of the four divisional teams. But having Burns and Doughty on the back end feeding players like Connor McDavid, Johnny Gaudreau and Joe Pavelski up front has the makings of a lethal combination.
No one in the NHL can accelerate to top speed as quickly as McDavid, and with all that open ice this is probably the most important skill in 3-on-3 hockey. Having him on your side is a game-changer.
Gaudreau's speed and hands mean he can turn a 1-on-1 rush into a breakaway in the blink of an eye, and Pacific Division coach Peter DeBoer can deploy him away from McDavid so that he has at least one of them on the ice for two thirds of the game.
The Atlantic Division's 1-2 punch of Karlsson and Hedman is a formidable one, but the combination of Burns and Doughty out there with either McDavid or Gaudreau gives the Pacific Division a serious edge in the goal-scoring department.
And, ultimately, isn't that what this tournament is all about?