OTTAWA — Three first overall NHL Draft picks. The Sedin twins, Daniel and Henrik. And don’t forget Pavel Datsyuk, the consistent Detroit Red Wings forward.
Datsyuk is so admired by his colleagues that many regard him as one of the game’s best all-around players.
Add it up and there just might be enough bona fide talent attending the NHL’s All-Star festivities in Ottawa to overcome the absence of Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, and capture the imaginations of the young, old and even most casual fans searching for a distraction on a light sports weekend.
“All I know is that we’re missing some really good hockey players, but there’s a lot of good hockey players in this league,” Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien said Friday.
“Even when there’s a few missing, there’s always a bunch of them that can step in and do just as well. As far as who’s going to emerge as a star player … I’m not very good when it comes to guessing, so I’m certainly not going to throw out a name.”
There’s plenty to choose from as Team Daniel Alfredsson takes on Team Zdeno Chara in the skills competition today and All-Star game Sunday.
With concerns hovering over the status of the NHL’s elite – concussions have slowed Crosby; Ovechkin’s slumping in Washington; so is goalie Ryan Miller in Buffalo.
And there’s an aging old guard that includes Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom and San Jose’s Joe Thornton – the question is who might have a chance to grab a share of the spotlight this weekend and potentially beyond?
“For those who are really keyed on Crosby or Ovechkin, maybe it is an opportunity to see some of the other dynamic and exciting players, which the NHL has a lot of,” Calgary forward Jarome Iginla said. “But yeah, I think the stage is there.”
Three of the past five No. 1 draft picks are playing – Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos, Chicago’s Patrick Kane and New York Islanders’ John Tavares.
Led by Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin, the NHL’s top nine and 14 of the top 15 points leaders are here.
The Vancouver Canucks’ Sedin twins are no pushovers, given that they rank 1-2 in the NHL in points – Henrik has 258 and Daniel 240 – since the start of the 2009-10 season according to STATS LLC.
And of the 42 All-Star players in attendance, the consensus top pick leans toward Datsyuk.
“His talent is probably as good as anybody’s,” said Chara, the Boston Bruins defenseman who selected Datsyuk first overall in the All-Star draft a day earlier.