The roster for the Western Division in the 2018 SHL All-Star Game, which will be held at Michigan’s Cadillac Place, was announced today by coach Sam Castor. The selections were as follows:
LW: Jerry Koons, Anchorage. It’s the second straight All-Star appearance for the Igloos winger, but it’s his first time being voted into the starting lineup. In a reverse of last year’s results, Koons was voted in over Dakota’s “Flyin’ Ryan” Airston. He had a breakout season in 2017, scoring 44 goals and 90 points and winning the MVP award. He hasn’t been on that same pace this season, but he’s off to a solid point; his 35 points put him in the top 10 in the league.
D: Fritz Kronstein, Michigan. The Wolves remain the top defensive squad in the SHL, and their top defensive pairing was rewarded with their second straight starting appearance. This season, Kronstein was the top-vote getter among all defensemen, a recognition of his emergence as a two-way force. He leads the Wolves with 28 points (12 goals, 16 assists), and he is the leader among all blueliners in the league in plus-minus with a +24 rating.
C: Jake Frost, Anchorage. For the second straight season, Frost was the runaway winner of the starting center spot for the West, garnering almost 60% of the votes at the position. The tall center has been one of the SHL’s top scorers since his debut, and this season is no exception; his 22 goals are the fourth-highest total in the SHL. “Having Koonsy and Frosty out there on the top line, that makes you feel good as a coach,” said Castor. “With the kind of year we’re having, I wasn’t taking that for granted.”
D: “Mad Max” Madison, Michigan. It wasn’t clear whether Madison was going to be able to make the game, as he has missed the last three weeks with a lower-body injury. But he has declared that he’s “feeling great and ready to go,” and plans to make his return to the ice in front of his home crowd. Madison’s numbers have taken a hit due to his injury, but he was off to a solid start before getting hurt, putting up 3 goals and 7 assists in the first 15 games of the season.
RW: Vince Mango, Seattle. The Sailors sniper has proven to be a polarizing figure around the league, as his theatrical goal celebrations and loquaciousness with the press rub some traditionalist fans the wrong way. But he’s attracted enough fans to squeak out a narrow victory in fan voting, garnering a few thousand more votes than Michigan’s Gordon Lunsford and Anchorage’s Nicklas Ericsson. Mango is known for his scoring, and he has 16 tallies on the season, which places him among the Top 10 in the league. Mango described the results as a “changing of the guard.”
LW: Troy Chamberlain, Saskatchewan. The Shockers winger makes his second straight All-Star appearance. Chamberlain continues to be the driving force behind Saskatchewan’s offense, leading the team in both goals (with 13) and points (29). But he’s also not just a force on offense; he’s known around the league as a diligent and capable two-way player. Although the Shockers have slipped back in the playoff race recently, Chamberlain’s play has been a key to their push to contend.
D: Wyatt Barnes, Saskatchewan. For the second season in a row, Chamberlain and Barnes represent the Shockers’ only All-Star representatives. Barnes continues to emerge as one of the SHL’s top blueline talents. His 21 assists are the most among Saskatchewan players, and he’s also managed to light the lamp four times. In addition, he’s a rugged and hard-hitting defender who’s been nicknamed “Stonewall” by his teammates due to his ability to deny opposing skaters entry into the offensive zone. He’s even in plus-minus rating this season, one of only three Saskatchewan players not in the negative.
C: Lars Karlsson, Dakota. Karlsson is one of two Jackalopes players appearing in this year’s All-Star Game, although it’s hard to know how much longer he will remain in a Dakota uniform. Karlsson’s contract is up at the end of the season, and he figures to be one of the most sought-after rentals, as the rebuilding ‘Lopes seem unlikely to resign him. The veteran center has done a good job blocking out the distractions and is putting up a fine season, leading the team in both goals (15) and points (31).
D: Ted Keefe, Anchorage. The top two defensive pairings for the West look the same this year as last, as Castor turned to his veteran puck-moving stalwart to fill out the second pair. Keefe turns 33 this season, but is playing like a man a decade younger. He’s got the best offensive numbers among the Igloos’ defensive corps, with 8 goals and 19 assists on the season. He’s a hard-checking defenseman who likes to scrap, and he’s one of the league’s best at steals and forcing turnovers as well.
RW: Nicklas Ericsson, Anchorage. As mentioned above, Ericsson narrowly missed being voted into a starting slot on the Western squad, and Castor had no hesitation about picking his own player to complete the second line. Despite having what for him is a bit of a down season (7 goals, 20 assists), Ericsson continues to be regarded as one of the league’s elite passers. “He could fit a puck through the eye of a needle if he had to,” said Castor.
LW: Pascal Royal, Kansas City. The SHL requires that every team be represented on the All-Star teams, and Royal is the Smoke’s lone representative. The 27-year-old winger has had something of a career resurgence in KC, and he leads the team in points (31) and assists (19). The All-Star Game is something of a showcase for Royal, who seems a likely possibility to be moved at the trading deadline.
D: Matt Cherner, Dakota. Cherner makes his first-ever All-Star appearance. Like his Jackalopes teammate Karlsson, he’s likely to attract attention from teams around the trading deadline, although given that his contract doesn’t expire until 2020, he’s less likely to be moved. Cherner is one of the league’s best offensive-minded defensemen, and he’s putting up a strong season, scoring 7 goals and 23 assists to date.
C: Warren Marlow, Michigan. Marlow was not originally chosen as an All-Star last season, but he wound up going as a replacement after teammate Hunter Bailes suffered an injury in the days before the game. He is the only Wolves player selected by Castor… a fact that hasn’t gone unnoticed at Cadillac Place. Marlow has actually recorded more points than Bailes so far this season (27 to 26), although Bailes has scored more goals (18 to 13). He also has the unusual distinction of being one of four regular starters in the SHL who has yet to record a penalty this season.
D: Dave Frederick, Anchorage. In a selection considered debatable by some, Castor tabbed the 31-year-old Frederick to make his All-Star debut in the West’s bottom pairing. Wolves fans argued for the selection of Brooks Zabielski or Frank Mudrick over Frederick, while Sailors supporters protested that Doron Lidjya was unfairly snubbed. In fairness to Frederick, he has some points in his favor: he’s second among Western defenders in plus-minus at +19, and he’s produced on offense, putting up 4 goals and 11 assists so far this season.
RW: Elliott Pepper, Seattle. The Sailors get their second representative in Pepper, who’s making his first All-Star appearance. The winger got off to a strong start that earned him Player of the Week honors in the season’s first week. He’s cooled off some since, but he remains one of the league’s better offensive performers, with 16 goals (tied with fellow All-Star Mango for the Seattle team lead) and 13 assists so far on the year.
Dirk “The Bear” Lundquist, Michigan. Although the SHL’s best-bearded goalie isn’t quite as dominant this season as he has been in years past, he still won the starting nod handily, according to the fan vote. Lundquist’s numbers are certainly nothing to sneeze at, either: his 18 wins are tied for the league lead, while his 1.91 GAA is second-best and his .926 save percentage is good for third overall.
Ty Worthington, Anchorage. The Igloos netminder will be the Western backup once again this time around. Although Worthington got off to something of a slow start this season, he’s rebounded nicely in recent weeks, helping Anchorage firm up their hold on second place in the West. Overall, his numbers remain quite respectable: 13-11-0, 2.41 GAA, .923 save percentage — good enough to get the nod over Saskatchewan’s Zeke Zagurski.