Nikolai Zherdev celebrates a third period goal against Columbus. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)
Working from last week’s Top 10, this week I look at the Top 10 players who deserve to be on the NHL’s all-star ballot, - but aren't - picking one player from each position (even though the ballot only lists forwards) in each conference.
We begin in the West.
• At center, Chicago’s Patrick Sharp gets the nod. His nine goals and 16 points in 13 games have him on pace for 57 and 101, plus he’s playing more than 19 minutes per game, is winning better than 50 percent of his draws and has two game-winners.
• Left wing was a tough one. Paul Kariya has 15 points in 11 games, but I like goals more than assists. With that in mind, I’m going with San Jose’s Ryane Clowe. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound power forward has nine goals – including five on the power play – and 14 points in 17 games.
• At right wing, goals again take precedence. And once again I have to look to San Jose and its other emerging young winger Devin Setoguchi. His stat line reads nine goals, 17 points and a plus-6 in just less than 16 minutes of ice time per game. And he has yet to register a penalty minute, so he’ll fit right in as an all-star.
• On the blueline there was really only one choice, Vancouver’s Kevin Bieksa. The fourth-year player is a plus-5, tied for third on his team with 11 points in just 12 games (three goals, eight assists) and is leading the team in average ice time (24:24) by more than two minutes.
• The goalie choice was a difficult one because there weren’t many top-end guys left to choose from, but I went with Chicago’s Nikolai Khabibulin. He’s only played seven games so far, but he appears to be supplanting Cristobal Huet as the No. 1 option between the pipes. And his stat line – 4-1-2, one shutout, 2.38 GAA and .919 SP – isn’t bad either.
And now to the East.
• At center, Atlanta’s super-sophomore Bryan Little has come out of nowhere this season, despite being the 12th overall choice in 2006. Little has eight goals and 15 points in 15 games – good for ninth amongst all centers – and is a plus-7 on a brutal defensive team.
• At left wing, I have to go with Toronto’s Nik Antropov. The big Kazakh has six goals and 14 points in 16 games and is a plus-7 on a team that gives up a lot of goals.
• At right wing I’m going with a newcomer to the East, the Rangers’ Nikolai Zherdev. After disappointing in Columbus, Zherdev has been arguably his team’s best player this season. And with five goals, 14 points and plus-9 rating, he’s got the numbers to prove it.
• On defense, Florida’s Keith Ballard gets the nod. He’s not a flashy name, but he’s averaging 25:04 of ice per game, has a plus-2 rating and is leading his team in scoring with two goals and 10 points.
• And, finally, in net, Boston’s Tim Thomas is the obvious choice. His team is five points out of first in the East with four games in hand and his stat line is 5-2-2, two shutouts, a 1.85 goals-against average and .944 save percentage. Plus, his unorthodox style can make even routine saves look spectacular.
The THN.com Top 10 appears Wednesdays only on TheHockeyNews.com.
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