With just over two weeks until the 2018 NHL All-Star Weekend kicks off in Tampa Bay, five members of the Lightning were named to the Atlantic Division All-Star Team. Despite the absence of NHL players in the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang this February, the NHL will carry on with the annual All-Star weekend. The Lightning had the most players voted to this years All-Star Game, with four players named to the Atlantic team along with head coach Jon Cooper. Here’s what Tampa can expect from their All-Stars come January 28.
Head Coach Jon Cooper
With the Lightning off to one of their best first half starts in franchise history, fifth year head coach Jon Cooper was named the head coach for the Atlantic Division All-Star team. The Lightning already past the halfway point of the season, they stand alone atop of the NHL with 65 points and only nine regulation losses. Under Jon Cooper, the Lightning have made the playoffs for three seasons, including two appearances in the Eastern Conference Finals, and one trip to the Stanley Cup Finals. Now, leading the Lightning to one of the best seasons yet, Cooper was given the nod to coach his division in the All-Star Game for the first time in his career.
For his first full season as the number one goalie for the Lightning, Andrei Vasilevskiy is looking more and more like a franchise goalie. Many experts are expecting Vasilevskiy to be a favorite for the Vezina Trophy at the end of the year, an award given to the best goaltender in the league. Leading the NHL in wins (27) and shutouts (6), along with being second in GAA (2.10) and save percentage (.933), the 23 year old is being compared to other elite goaltenders like Carey Price and Braden Holtby. Being named to his first All-Star Game, I expect the young tender to be named to many more in years to come after his best season yet.
His nickname “The Captain” by many Lightning fans, he will also carry this name to the 2018 All-Star Game. Being the top vote getter for the Atlantic Division by hockey fans voting on the NHL.com website, Steven Stamkos will be the captain of his squad in his fifth All-Star Game. Tied for second in the league for points, Stamkos has had a great first half of the year. With 52 points, 35 of those being assists, which is fourth best in the NHL, Stamkos is eyeing another great season. Stamkos has always been known to be an elite scorer, he has been in the mix of names on the list to win the Hart Memorial Trophy, given to the league MVP. On top of that, he is right behind his teammate Nikita Kucherov for the Art Ross Trophy, awarded to the player with the most points at the end of the year.
Leading the NHL in goals and points, a mid-season favorite for the Art Ross Trophy, the Hart Memorial Trophy, and the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy. His best season yet, which is being followed by an amazing season last year, with the absence of Steven Stamkos for a majority of last season, Kucherov is one of the best names in the NHL right now. With 60 points, and 27 goals in only 43 games played, Kucherov is on pace for over 100 points this season, which would join him with elite company of names like Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, and current stars like Connor McDavid, and Sydney Crosby. Being named to his second All-Star Game in his career, the dangerous Russian sniper will be a name you will be hearing for the rest of the year.
A top defenseman in the league, whose name flies under the radar most of the time, Victor Hedman has been named to his second NHL All-Star Game in his career. Coming off one of his best seasons yet, and being named a Norris Trophy finalist for the first timein his career, Hedman still is the number one defenseman for the Lightning. Leading the league in plus/minus with a +24 rating, he is also third in assists for defenseman (27), and third in points for defenseman (33). Hedman is the glue for the Bolts on the blueline, especially being teamed up with newly acquired defenseman Mikhail Sergachev. Expect Hedman to be in the running for the Norris Trophy come June.
With the All-Star Game being hosted by the Lightning, many Bolts fans are very excited to see four of their players headline the event, and their head coach who has helped make Tampa a hockey city. The Atlantic Division is stacked with other greats not on the Lightning like Aleksander Barkov, Jack Eichel, Auston Matthews, Erik Karlsson, and Carey Price. With about two weeks to go until All-Star Weekend, Tampa Bay has a lot more to be happy about than these great honors for the five members of the franchise.