On January 12, the league-leading Tampa Bay Lightning announced that defenseman Victor Hedman would be out for three to six weeks with a lower-body injury. This is not only a loss for Tampa Bay as Hedman boasts an impressive 33 points this season, but also means he will miss the NHL All-Star Weekend.
The All-Star weekend, where Hedman was one of four Lightning players selected, will take place on January 27 and 28 in Tampa, Florida at Amalie Arena. Each divisional team is to be comprised of six forwards, three defensemen, and one goaltender for the three-on-three tournament. While the hockey world feels for Hedman who was set to make his second All-Star appearance, everyone has to go through injuries. Now the question is who will take his spot at next weekend’s tournament?
There are three defensemen listed as injury replacements for the Atlantic Division team: Toronto Maple Leafs’ Morgan Rielly, the Lightning’s Mikhail Sergachev, and Boston Bruins’ rookie Charlie McAvoy.
Now, Rielly and Sergachev are both good options on defense as they’ve both thrived with their teams who are in third and first place respectively in the Atlantic Division. Rielly has 31 points in for the Leafs who have built themselves a nice cushion above the remaining Atlantic teams. 19-year-old Sergachev has also put up impressive numbers with eight goals and 26 points in his first season with the Lightning.
But, the real star among this group is McAvoy for a few reasons. While he may have fewer points than his two injury replacement counterparts, his five goals, 21 points, and plus-18 rating are nothing to scoff at. He’s a staple on the man-advantage for the Bruins which is currently ranked ninth in the NHL at 21.6%. He’s playing like a four or five-year veteran in his rookie season and has proven he can be trusted in high-intensity situations as he’s won shootouts for the Bruins twice this season.
All these impressive statistics and his reliability are all bolstered by what is arguably his best contribution to the Bruins- his ice time. The 19-year-old is averaging 23 minutes a night, often paired with veteran captain Zdeno Chara. These staggering minutes have him ranked thirty-ninth in the entire NHL in average time on ice per game and leads rookies by about four minutes in that category as well.
While he may not be leading in goals like Sergachev (8) or in assists and points like Rielly (26, 31 respectively), he has certainly proven he can play NHL hockey and he can do it well. If the Atlantic Division wants a reliable defenseman who can help create offense, anchor the man-advantage, and eat up a lot of ice time, then Charlie McAvoy is the man for the job.