The roster for the Western Division in the 2019 SHL All-Star Game, as announced by coach Sam Castor, was as follows:
LW: Jerry Koons, Anchorage. Koons receives his third All-Star selection, and was voted into the starting lineup for the second time, winning by about 10,000 votes over Seattle’s Rod Argent. Last season, Koons won All-Star MVP honors after scoring a pair of goals in the West’s 9-2 rout. The Igloos have been red-hot lately, and Koons has been a key driver of their surge. He’s in the league’s top 10 in points (38) and assists (24).
D: Fritz Kronstein, Michigan. There are apparently three certainties in life: death, taxes, and the election of the Wolves’ top defensive pairing to the All-Star Game. Kronstein and teammate Max Madison will the West’s starting defensive pair for the third straight season. For the second straight year, Kronstein received the most votes of any defenseman in the West. The 26-year-old continues to be among the SHL’s best two-way blueliners; he’s among the league’s top 10 in assists with 26, and has a solid +11 rating to boot. In addition, he retains his reputation as a heavy hitter and ferocious fighter when challenged.
C: Jake Frost, Anchorage. Like Kronstein and Madison, Frost has been a fixture in the starting lineup at every All-Star Game. He cruised to victory once again this year, getting over 25,000 more votes than his nearest competitor. As the Igloos have gotten stronger over the last month or so, Frost has as well. The tall, cool center has always been among the league’s top scorers, and his 21 goals this season place him fourth in the league. “I thought Frosty might be getting a little tired of never getting the All-Star break off,” quipped Castor, “but he seems to like it just fine.”
D: “Mad Max” Madison, Michigan. Last season, Madison nearly missed the All-Star Game with a lower-back injury, but recovered just in time to play in the game in front of his home crowd. This season, Madison is in excellent health (although he missed a week early in the season with a nagging lower-body issue) and is ready to make his third straight All-Star start. The son of an amateur boxer, Madison is renowned as one of the league’s meanest and most dangerous fighters. But he’s not just a goon; he also handles the puck responsibly. He’s recorded 16 points (4 goals, 12 assists) so far in the 2019 season.
RW: Nicklas Ericsson, Anchorage. For the first time, all three members of the Igloos’ top line will be skating together in the All-Star Game. The sweet-skating Swede makes his third All-Star appearance, and makes it to the starting lineup for the second time, beating Seattle’s Vince Mango by less than 800 votes. Ericsson’s claim to fame is his ability to pass and set up scores by his linemates, and this season is no exception; his 36 assists make him #2 in the SHL in that category. “I’m looking forward to these guys working their All-Star magic together,” said Castor.
LW: Les Collins, Anchorage. In a move that raised a few eyebrows around the league, Castor chose his own second-line player, Collins, instead of other top left wingers like Argent or Saskatchewan’s Troy Chamberlain. It’s the first All-Star bid for Collins, and Castor pointed out that he is having a terrific contract year, putting up 35 points (13 goals, 22 assists) and a +14 rating (among the SHL’s top ten). He even spent some time on Anchorage’s top line, skating beside Frost and Ericsson. “I think Les would a top-line guy for a lot of teams,” said Castor. “He’s done it for us. I’d put him against the best wingers out there.”
D: Wyatt Barnes, Saskatchewan. Barnes has become an All-Star regular; this is his third appearance. The Shockers are in the thick of the playoff chase this season, and Barnes and teammate Chris Oflyng have combined to form perhaps the SHL’s most dynamic defensive pairing. Barnes is tied for the team lead in assists with 20, and has added six goals into the bargain. While Oflyng is an even more potent offensive force, Barnes is a lockdown defender, frustrating opponents’ zone entries and blocking shooting lanes again and again. It’s no surprise that Barnes and Oflyng are tied for the team lead in plus-minus at +8.
C: Napoleon Beasley, Seattle. Earlier in his career, Beasley was trapped on a weak Saskatchewan club, and constantly faced whispers that he only played because of his father Myron, who coached the team. After signing with the Sailors in the offseason, Beasley is demonstrating that he is a thoroughly deserving star in his own right. It’s a breakout season for Seattle, which would qualify for its first-ever playoff berth if the season ended today, and also for Beasley, who has put up 13 goals and 19 assists on the season so far. It all adds up to Beasley’s first trip to the All-Star Game.
D: Sebastian Pomfret, Anchorage. Castor certainly wasn’t shy about selecting his own players to the team; he selected three Igloos to go along with the three already in the starting lineup. “Hey, we are the defending division champs,” he noted. The 24-year-old Pomfret signed a 4-year, $3.6 million extension in the offseason, and he’s living up to it so far. He’s second among Anchorage blueliners with 20 points (8 goals, 12 assists), and his +13 rating is tied for the best among Igloos defensemen.
RW: Vince Mango, Seattle. The high-scoring winger and reality television star makes his second All-Star appearance after winning a starting spot in 2018. Mango has long been knocked for his poor defense and his love of flashy on-ice celebrations, but with the Sailors having their best year ever, their star is finally earning the grudging respect of old-time fans. He still contributes primarily with his offense, as he’s in the SHL’s top ten for points (37) and goals (19). But his assist total is up, and he’s more dialed in on defense than in years past. He remains as colorful as ever, though; he promised that he’s working on a “special one-of-a-kind goal celebration” for the All-Star contest.
LW: “Flyin’ Ryan” Airston, Dakota. Airston gets an All-Star nod for the second time; he was in the West’s starting lineup in 2017. This year, he is the sole Jackalopes player to receive the honor, which is fitting given the dismal season they’ve had so far. In spite of missing nearly three weeks with an upper-body injury, Airston has still managed to out up 25 points (11 goals, 14 assists), which places him one off the team lead. As Dakota looks to cut payroll amid rumors of serious financial trouble, Airston is practically the only team star who’s not being shopped.
D: Bastien Chouinard, Kansas City. The 20-year-old rookie blueliner made the cut as one of the Smoke’s two All-Star representatives. Although Boston’s Alain Beauchesne is the consensus Rookie of the Year favorite, Chouinard may give him a run for his money. The young Quebecois D-man is putting up surprising offensive numbers (5 goals, 19 assists) to back up a give-no-quarter defensive style that has him tied for second in the NHL in penalty minutes, with 60. “Defensemen are a pretty rough bunch, but that guy’s legitimately scary,” said Smoke coach Randy Bergner of Chouinard. “If I had to go down a dark alley at midnight, I’d want him next to me.”
C: Elliott Rafferty, Saskatchewan. Many league insiders thought Rafferty’s teammate Lars Karlsson would get this spot, but Castor instead tapped Rafferty to make his All-Star debut. Karlsson has the big contract and the superior pedigree, but Rafferty’s got the better numbers this season. He leads the Shockers with 32 points (12 goals, 20 assists), and he’s one of only three forwards on Saskatchewan with a positive plus-minus (+3). Rafferty’s breakout performance earned him Player of the Week honors a couple weeks before the break; that might have influenced Castor’s thinking.
D: Woody Fairwood, Seattle. Amid a crowded field of strong two-way defensemen, Castor made a somewhat unexpected pick in tapping the 23-year-old Fairwood as another first-time All-Star. Prior to this season, Fairwood was perhaps best known around the league for the time he sat on the opposing goalie and flung the puck into the net by hand. But this year, he’s earning notice for his high caliber of play. In the first half, he produced 26 points (8 goals, 18 assists). Even more impressive, his +19 rating is second-best in the league. “Good things happen when Woody’s on the ice,” said Sailors coach Harold Engellund. “That’s all there is to it.”
RW: Zachary Merula, Kansas City. Yet another All-Star newcomer, the 23-year-old Merula joins teammate Chouinard on the bottom line. Merula had an impressive rookie season, and he looks to be on track to eclipse that performance in his sophomore year. He is KC’s second highest point-scorer with 28 (13 goals, 15 assists). And he doesn’t shy away from rough play, either, as his 45 penalty minutes will attest.
Dirk “The Bear” Lindquist, Michigan. Who else? The lusciously-bearded Lundquist regularly tops the list of SHL goaltenders, both in terms of statistics and fan support. Even though Michigan has slipped a bit after a dominant start, Lundquist remains the king of the Western crease, having almost twice as many votes as his nearest competitor. As usual, he leads the league in wins (with 16) and in save percentage (.942). His 1.64 goals-against average is second only to his rarely-used backup, Art Cowan.
Ty Worthington, Anchorage. In each of the past two years, Worthington has been Lundquist’s backup on the Western squad. Castor decided to keep the tradition going for 2019, despite considerable support for Seattle’s Rocky Goldmire, who is having a career season. Unlike many of his Igloos teammates, who started slow and then get hot, Worthington has been strong throughout the first half. He is tied with Hershey’s Brandon Colt for second-most goaltender wins, with 14. His 2.38 GAA placed his among the league’s top five.