The NHL revealed the initial all-star rosters last week, with a few hits and a few misses depending on your perspective. It's always a healthy debate over which players are the stars of their respective clubs and the league.
From a fantasy perspective, there always has to be more than just a dash of expectations incorporated into the selection of an all-star team, because value against initial investment goes a long way to winning fantasy leagues. That said, it isn't the only factor and being a true all-star on the ice can go a long way for consideration as well.
So let's give this a go from a fantasy lens. Using the same rules as the NHL, we'll give our own fantasy all-star squads for each division. That means one player per team and at least one goalie, but we don't have to balance defensemen and forwards.
All the other fantasy squads ended up with at least three defensemen and the only blue-liner from the Metropolitan here is a pretty questionable one. There were some strong choices for the New Jersey Devils, but at the end of the day Vitek Vanecek was the best choice for goaltender given the results versus draft-day expectations. Any team with Alex Ovechkin has a chance to compete, but one of the vote-in candidates on this fantasy team would need to be Adam Fox or Brent Burns for the team to have a real chance.
Mathew Barzal, C, New York Islanders: For some reason Barzal's fantasy points in my head are always way higher than his actual output. It's likely a product of him skewing so heavily toward assists (one point) for his contributions instead of goals (two points). He's the natural choice from the Islanders, as he's well outstripping any preseason projections as he's pushing closer to 170 fantasy points compared the 112.2 he finished with last season.
Filip Chytil, C/W, New York Rangers: There weren't many good choices from the Rangers as the stars of the team are falling short of their projected worth prior to the season -- not to a massive extent, but short is short. Chytil barely makes the cut as a top-250 projected player going forward, but there is enough fantasy value here to consider him the representative.
Martin Necas, C/W, Carolina Hurricanes: Not many of the Hurricanes are besting their projected contributions this season. Pyotr Kochetkov got some consideration as the goaltender choice here, but ultimately his overall crease share was too low to push past Vanecek. Necas has rebounded nicely from a down season and deserves the nod.
Travis Konecny, W, Philadelphia Flyers: This is a no-brainer as Konecny is rising above all the challenges facing the Flyers and performing like a superstar fantasy asset. Heck, most of the forwards are performing better than expected for fantasy, but Konecny has them beat by a country mile with his 2.8 fantasy points per game (FPPG).
Jason Zucker, W, Pittsburgh Penguins: Again, a team with plenty of all-star talent, but Zucker is the one besting what we expected of him. His 1.7 FPPG isn't winning you any weeks, but he's a reliable starter for your fantasy team when you need him.
Alex Ovechkin, W, Washington Capitals: Erik Gustafsson could have been the choice here, but his elevation to fantasy relevance is too recent to beat Ovechkin, who is making a mockery of father time. He's already seventh for goals by a player in their age-37 season and only needs 11 more to take over top spot.
Marcus Bjork, D, Columbus Blue Jackets: He's borderline fantasy relevant, which is more than we can say for most Blue Jackets. And certainly no one saw him coming with Zach Werenski, Jake Bean, Adam Boqvist and even David Jiricek considered more likely to be the power-play quarterback this season.
Vitek Vanecek, G, New Jersey Devils: He's among the top-12 goaltenders for total fantasy points but has done so with the lowest crease share percentage of any of them.
With Linus Ullmark a lock for the crease, some darn good Bruins got left off the table here -- not the least of which was the recently injured Jake DeBrusk, but even David Pastrnak is exceeding his high expectations and Hampus Lindholm is still clinging on as a fantasy asset. The three defensemen for the team are an indication that the forward groups for those teams aren't doing what we hoped they would this season.
Tage Thompson, C/W, Buffalo Sabres: I don't think this requires any explanation. Although I will note it's a shame we can't also choose Rasmus Dahlin as both are arguably in the same echelon of outperforming draft value.
John Tavares, C, Toronto Maple Leafs: If anything, we expected less from Tavares this season as Auston Matthews continued to take the league by storm. But Tavares capitalized on a slow start from Matthews to jump out as a major fantasy contributor. Thanks in part to Mitch Marner being swapped with William Nylander as Tavares' main winger, the Leafs captain is on pace to pass his fantasy totals from last season -- which cannot be said for Matthews or Marner.
Linus Ullmark, G, Boston Bruins: He wasn't even my favorite choice from the Bruins crease before the season, let alone a pick to be the best fantasy goaltender at this point.
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Unlike the Atlantic, where all three of the defensemen were really just forced onto the all-star team due to a lack of forward choices, two of the four defensemen in the Central earned it over some other potential choices. J.J. Moser and Josh Morrissey pushed past some forwards that are also exceeding projections to earn a spot here. Roman Josi definitely earns his spot, too, but not versus other options. Alexandar Georgiev definitely gets the nod in the crease over other exceptional goaltending options because we expected this from Connor Hellebuyck, Juuse Saros and Jake Oettinger.
Mats Zuccarello, W, Minnesota Wild: I was little torn on this one, as perhaps I was too low on Zuccarello repeating his connection with Kirill Kaprizov in such strong fashion (in other words, were my expectations too low?). But I have him on pace to approach 200 fantasy points and he only managed 153.0 last season, so it's probably fair.
Josh Morrissey, D, Winnipeg Jets: He already has more assists than his previous career-high for points. Yes, Morrissey has been a fantasy boon.
Roman Josi, D, Nashville Predators: This was supposed to be the beginning of a slow decline for Josi. Not a steep one, but certainly he wouldn't be in the running for the crown as best fantasy defenseman again, right? Wrong. He only trails Rasmus Dahlin for that title and not by very much.
J.J. Moser, D, Arizona Coyotes: He's not quite as valuable for fantasy as Shayne Gostisbehere or Jakob Chychrun, but who knew we'd have three Coyotes defensemen on the fantasy radar? Well, who knew it would be Moser? (I thought Dysin Mayo would fill this role in the preseason and be a borderline fantasy play, but alas, it's Moser).
Alexandar Georgiev, G, Colorado Avalanche: The Avs lottery ticket for starting goaltender is paying off in spades. If the team never took any penalties, Georgiev would be even better as his even-strength save percentage ranks fifth among full-time starters.
This might be the most well-balanced squad we have, even accounting for the unexpected Adam Henrique inclusion. The Pacific has a goalie tied for third in wins, the league leader in goals, assists and points, a player tied for fourth in goals and the defenseman with the most points.
Connor McDavid, C, Edmonton Oilers: Even though we expected him to be the best, he is still outpacing all expectations. McDavid is on a pace to crack 300 fantasy points easily. For reference, he posted 241.4 last season.
Adam Henrique, C/W, Anaheim Ducks: With Trevor Zegras, Troy Terry and John Klingberg all underperforming, Henrique has been a consistent -- if low-tier -- fantasy option all season. I briefly considered Mason McTavish here, but he hasn't been doing well since October, so Henrique gets the nod.
Bo Horvat, C, Vancouver Canucks: A jump from 2.1 FPPG last season to 2.8 FPPG this season even pushes Horvat past Elias Pettersson here, despite Pettersson having a massive comeback campaign for fantasy.
Gabriel Vilardi, C/W, Los Angeles Kings: The goals have slowed as the calendar drags on, but Vilardi is still very much an offensive presence for the Kings and earning his time on the power-play unit. Another hot streak or two is all he needs to be a worthwhile fantasy asset for season-long formats.
Erik Karlsson, D, San Jose Sharks: The ultimate in exceeding expectations, it's painful to think about all the spots in drafts you took lesser players this season than Karlsson. In hindsight, clearing the massive presence of Brent Burns from this blue line and Karlsson coming in healthy could have been put together in the preseason as something to target. Either way, we are back in the age of Karlsson.
Adam Larsson, D, Seattle Kraken: Larsson started a touch slow, but now sits seventh among all skaters for fantasy points that come exclusively from hits, blocked shots and shots on goal. And it's enough to make him an everyday play.
Rasmus Andersson, D, Calgary Flames: If we had an all-dud team for players underperforming (note to self: next week's column idea), the Flames would have no shortage of candidates. But Andersson, despite the down seasons from Elias Lindholm and Jonathan Huberdeau, has risen above the doldrums and continues to contribute.
Logan Thompson, G, Vegas Golden Knights: There were some expectations here after it was announced Robin Lehner wouldn't play this season, but it's doubtful even the rosiest outlooks had him ranking sixth among all goaltenders for fantasy points at this stage.