The rosters for the Western Division in the SHL’s first All-Star Game, as announced by Michigan coach Ron Wright, are as follows:
LW: “Flyin’ Ryan” Airston, Dakota. Airston prevailed in the closest competition in All-Star voting, edging out Anchorage’s Jerry Koons by less than 1,500 votes. The noted bunny enthusiast is one of the league’s top scorers, turning in 31 points (15 goals, 16 assists) so far on the season.
D: “Mad Max” Madison, Michigan. The Gray Wolves are the SHL’s #1 defensive squad by a healthy margin, so it’s no surprise that Michigan’s defenders dominated the voting. Madison is the best-known and most colorful of the bunch; as a result, he was the West’s top vote-getter at the position. He’s contributed on both ends, with 15 points and a +16 rating. He is also tied for the SHL lead in penalty minutes, with 60.
C: Jake Frost, Anchorage. Unlike the East, voting for center in the West wasn’t close in the least; Frost garnered nearly twice as many votes as his nearest competitor. His commanding margin is a testament to his excellent play; Frost’s 23 goals is tied for the SHL lead. He is also among the league leaders in plus-minus rating, at +18.
D: Fritz Kronstein, Michigan. Kronstein is the less colorful half of the Wolves’ top defensive pairing, but he’s an even more impressive two-way player. The German-born blueliner has put up 24 points so far this season to go with his +17 rating. Unlike Madison, he plays a heavy defense without racking up heavy penalty minutes (only 19 on the season).
RW: Nicklas Ericsson, Anchorage. There are a number of high-scoring right wingers in the West, but Ericsson earned the nod for his exceptional passing skills. He has put up 40 assists on the season, eight more than anyone else in the league to date. “There’s only going to be one puck on the ice,” said Wright, “so I’m glad my top line isn’t stacked with shooters.
LW: Jerry Koons, Anchorage. Koons narrowly lost the popular vote to Airston, but his statistics suggest that he is the superior choice. He’s tied for the league lead in goals (23) and is the sole leader in points (44). He is also in the top five league-wide in plus-minus rating (+18).
D: Wyatt Barnes, Saskatchewan. In a tough season for the Shockers, Barnes has been a standout. Advanced metrics suggest point to him as one of the West’s best defenders, and he’s been one of Saskatchewan’s offensive leaders as well, amassing 30 points through the first half of the season.
C: Lars Karlsson, Dakota. Karlsson does not have a strong defensive reputation, which would ordinarily make him anathema to Wright. But at a weak position in the division, his offensive stats are too compelling too ignore. His 40 points (15 goals, 25 assists) is good for fourth in the SHL.
D: Ted Keefe, Anchorage. Wright has described Keefe as “the opposing player I’d most like to have,” so it’s hardly shocking that he wound up on the Western squad. Keefe is a two-fisted defenseman who’s not afraid to throw a hard check or win puck battles along the boards, and he pulls his own weight on offense (32 points) as well.
RW: Gordon Lunsford, Michigan. Wright tapped a familiar face to finish out his second line. Lunsford is a balanced contributor on offense, putting up 12 goals and 12 assists in the first half. His +16 rating speaks to his comfort on both ends of the ice.
LW: Troy Chamberlain, Saskatchewan. Chamberlain joins Barnes as the only representatives of the Shockers on the All-Star team. The sharp-shooting winger is Saskatchewan’s top point producer on the season, with 32 (13 goals, 19 assists). He also has a reputation for heads-up play on defense, making him an attractive choice for Wright.
D: Frank Mudrick, Michigan. “I would have taken all of our D-men if I could have,” said Wright. But in the end, Mudrick got the call over rookie Brooks Zabielski as part of the third pairing. Mudrick may be the most physical of the Wolves’ blue-line corps, but he also provides some firepower on offense as well, with 13 points on the season.
C: Warren Marlow, Michigan. Wright’s initial nod went to Hunter Bailes, but with the Wolves’ captain out with an injury, Wright turned to the man who has replaced him on the top line. Marlow’s selection was somewhat controversial, as his offensive numbers (9 goals, 9 assists) are less impressive than others such as Anchorage’s Nile Bernard and Derek Humplik, Dakota’s Mike Rivera, and Saskatchewan’s Napoleon Beasley. But Marlow has a stronger defensive reputation than any of the others, and that factored into Wright’s considerations.
D: Benny Lambert, Seattle. The sophomore blueliner is the Sailors’ lone representative in the All-Star Game. Lambert is well-known around the league as a tenacious and hard-hitting defender, and he’s also strong in setting up goals, with 17 assists so far this season. “He’s a guy I would have taken regardless of whether or not I had to pick a Seattle player,” said Wright.
RW: Benoit Poulin, Michigan. Wright tapped another of his own players in another controversial choice, leaving such quality scorers as Seattle’s Vince Mango and Dakota’s Arkady Golynin off the squad. Poulin is a decent scorer, having tallied 11 goals on the season, but again it was the defensive skills that Wright was after. “Big goal totals are sexy,” the coach said, “but that’s not how we got to be SHL champions. I want to recognize those underrated skills as well.”
Dirk “The Bear” Lundquist, Michigan. Lundquist was the clear choice to start in net for the West, and the vote reflected that; he received over 65% of the votes at the position. He was the top overall vote-getter at any position. The lusciously-bearded goalie dominates every statistical category: wins (16), goals against average (1.19), save percentage (.961).
Ty Worthington, Anchorage. Wright said that the backup netminder position was a tough call between Worthington and Saskatchewan’s Zeke Zagurski. In the end, the Wolves coach tabbed his Igloos rival. Worthington has struggled with injuries this season, but when he has played, he’s been excellent: 10-4-4, 2.23 GAA, .927 save percentage.