On Thursday, the NHL revealed the list of players that fans can vote for to be last man in for each division in the All-Star Game this year. One player from each division, whoever gets the most votes in their respective divisions, will gain a spot in San Jose at the end of the month. The list of players eligible can be found on NHL’s website here.
Each team is represented with one player that fans can vote for. So for the Metropolitan Division, there are 8 potential players who can be voted last man in. There are some formidable names on that list, players who have played well this season. Teuvo Teravainen has had a fabulous season in Carolina alongside Sebastian Aho, with 32 points in 39 games. Kris Letang has always been an all-star quality defenseman over in Pittsburgh when healthy, but he has been injury prone quite often. This year, however, he has played in nearly all of the Pens’ games, 38 to be exact, and has 35 points to go with it. He will certainly gain lots of votes to be the last man in for the Metro. And with the defending champs, you have stud centerman Nicklas Backstrom who has scored over a point per game this season, 44 in 39 games to be exact, and even has 10 goals to boot, despite assists always being his strong suit.
Those are some quality players, all of whom are arguably deserving of a spot in San Jose during All-Star weekend. I would think specifically that Letang and Backstrom both have a very strong chance to win this vote for the Metro. However, one player that should not be overlooked is the one on the ballot for the New Jersey Devils: Kyle Palmieri. Given the poor play of the team overall, in contrast with the top of the division which has been very competitive, it could be easy to overlook how well Palmieri has played this season, and as a result he might not score particularly high on this vote tally. Don’t be fooled, however: Palms’ play has been deserving of inclusion in the All-Star Game this year.
To start off, just looking at points, Kyle sat at 35 points in 39 games played heading into Arizona last night. That is on par with Letang, a defenseman, and less than Backstrom, but don’t let that fool you. Combined between the two, Letang and Backstrom have put up 19 goals. Palmieri has put up 20 by himself. Points are important, however they come, but scoring goals definitely takes precedence over assists. In that regard, Palmieri takes the cake. He even puts the aforementioned Teravainen to shame, as he also has only 10 goals to Kyle’s 20. If you look at his goals versus expectation, a chart here thanks to Sean Tierney, Kyle is almost pushing out of the chart he is doing so well. Without his goal scoring, the Devils would be considerably worse off.
Taking that thought further, we can talk about the players’ importance to their team. When considering that, I would say Palmieri is one of the most important players for New Jersey. As has been noted many times on this site, the top line for the Devils is extremely important in terms of generating offense for this team. The rest of the team has done admirably at scoring while Taylor Hall has been injured, but much of that burden still falls on Nico Hischier and Palmieri, the remaining two from the top line. And in terms of scoring, Palmieri has delivered. He had six points in his previous six games heading into last night, and according to the MSG broadcast last night, is the fastest player to 100 points as a Devil since the 1990s.
Now, you might want to debate me on the fact that he might not be better than Backstrom or Letang or one of the other candidates this year, and in that regard he does not deserve your vote, but I would disagree. You might come to the conclusion that one of those players is more deserving of being last man in for the Metro, but what I don’t think you can determine is that Palmieri does not deserve to be an all-star. Given his contributions to New Jersey, specifically his goal scoring but his all-around play as well as his leadership qualities, he has played like an all-star for the Devils. On that fact alone, he deserves your vote.
Now, in the end Palmieri might not win the vote. I hope he does, and I will certainly vote for him and I hope you do, but who knows. However, if we can all go vote for him, hopefully that shows him that we appreciate what he is doing for the Devils this year, and that even if he does not get in, he deserves to be there as much as anyone else. He is certainly an all-star for the New Jersey Devils, and while we all love to discuss the infamous one-for-one deal with Edmonton, trading Anaheim a 2nd and a 3rd round selection for Palmieri when he was only a 24 year-old has turned out to be a steal. He will be a part of this team’s core for years to come, and that should be a good thing moving forward. It certainly is this year.