Perhaps it’s no surprise that Tyler Bertuzzi has earned his first trip to the NHL All-Star Game.
Despite the rough start to the Detroit Red Wings’ 2019-20 season, the 24-year-old forward is on pace to top his stats from last season — currently leading his team with 15 goals and 31 points.
Bertuzzi won’t be the only first-timer at this year’s event in St. Louis though, as players such as Dougie Hamilton and Frederik Andersen also will be making their All-Star debuts. And there could be even more newbies going with them.
Fans still have time to cast their Last Men In votes, and there are 10 candidates from across the NHL who are looking for their first tickets to the midseason spectacle.
Here’s what makes these 10 candidates deserving of their first All-Star bid.
Cale Makar – defenseman, Colorado Avalanche
The rookie defenseman exploded onto the scene when he joined the Avs during last season’s playoffs and is making a strong case to win the Calder Trophy through his first regular-season campaign. Heck, if he hadn’t missed eight games due to an upper-body injury, he would probably be leading all rookies in scoring.
Not only would a trip to the All-Star Game be a nice way to top off Makar’s first season in the pros, but it also would be nice to see a new face on this year’s Central Division squad.
Mitch Marner – forward, Toronto Maple Leafs
As with all things Maple Leafs, it made headlines last year when Marner was denied participation in the ASG festivities in San Jose. The young forward took the rebuff well, however, and he is back in the mix yet again this time around.
The 22-year-old leads the Leafs with 29 assists, and his 40 points are second only to Auston Matthews, who has already earned his fourth consecutive All-Star nod.
Tomas Hertl – forward, San Jose Sharks
The Sharks might be having an uneven season, but Hertl continues to get things done on the scoreboard and improve on his status as a power forward to be reckoned with. Needless to say, the cheerful Czech would love to attend his first All-Star weekend.
“If the fans vote me in, I’ll be really happy,” Hertl told NHL.com. “This is really special for me. Maybe guys who have gone a few times would rather have the time off, but it is different when you’ve never gone in your life.”
Jean-Gabriel Pageau – forward, Ottawa Senators
Another player flourishing in spite of his team’s woes, Pageau has impressed for the Sens through the first half of the 2019-20 season and is on track to have one of the best campaigns of his NHL career.
The All-Star bid does seem a bit precarious given that Pageau, who is set to be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, could be traded by Ottawa before the deadline in February. Nevertheless, the 27-year-old would be a good choice to represent the Senators in St. Louis.
TJ Oshie – forward, Washington Capitals
It’s hard to believe that Oshie has never been to the midseason event given his NHL resume. The popular forward is having another big season for the Caps, with 16 goals and 31 points so far, and is worthy of All-Star honors.
Getting selected to go to St. Louis would also serve as a nice reunion for Oshie, who is still well-liked among sports fans there from his time playing for the Blues.
Teuvo Teravainen – forward, Carolina Hurricanes
With teammate Hamilton already representing the Canes in his first All-Star Game, Teravainen would be in good company if he also made his first appearance there.
The 25-year-old Finn leads his team with 33 assists thanks to his stealthy setup game. That kind of play could be extra fun during the All-Star festivities, with the three-on-three tournament highlighting the weekend full of events.
Speaking of players with a ton of apples this season…
Quinn Hughes – defenseman, Vancouver Canucks
Another Calder Trophy candidate, Hughes is having himself a strong rookie campaign that has been a key piece of the Canucks rebuild. The 20-year-old defenseman is tied with Brock Boeser for first place on his team with 26 assists — the most of any rookie in the NHL right now.
Canucks fans might be hesitant to vote for Hughes since he is set to get a bonus if he is selected to the Pacific Division team. But as the Vancouver Courier explains, said bonus shouldn’t hurt the team’s salary cap constraints.
Brock Nelson – forward, New York Islanders
The 28-year-old center is a big reason the Isles have been competitive in the Met through the first half of the season, coming in second on his team in goals and assists. Nelson has helped give New York’s forward attack depth along with fellow center Matthew Barzal, who has already punched his ticket to the ASG.
Barzal himself says Nelson should be a strong consideration. “I think Nellie had a pretty good start to the year,” he told Newsday. “I thought maybe he could’ve gotten invited.”
Mika Zibanejad – forward, New York Rangers
Zibanejad is a bit of a sleeper pick to make the Metropolitan All-Star roster. But after being snubbed in previous years, this could be a good time for him to be one of NYR’s representatives. (Artemi Panarin has already earned his All-Star bid.)
The right-shooting Swede also entered the voting on a hot streak, ending 2019 with points in eight out of 10 games at the end of December. Fans of the Blue Shirts will no doubt be casting their ballots to get him to St. Louis at the end of January.
Nico Hischier – forward, New Jersey Devils
The Devils had a rough start to their 2019-20 campaign with head coach John Hynes getting fired and their best player, Taylor Hall, being traded to the Coyotes. Through all of that chaos, however, Hischier has stepped up into a leadership role.
“Nico is getting better and better every game, every practice,” teammate Wayne Simmonds told NorthJersey.com. “You just watch him play out there and he’s been unbelievable.”
Additionally, Hischier’s two-way game is comparable to his Last Men In contemporaries, making him a good candidate for three-on-three play in what would be his first All-Star Game appearance.