The roster for the 2021 Western Division All-Stars, as announced by coach Sam Castor, is as follows:
LW: Zachary Merula, Milwaukee. The Growlers are a big hit with fans in their debut season, as evidenced by the surge in ballots from the Cream City in this year’s voting. Thanks to the lift from the Milwaukee contingent, Merula secured his first All-Star start. (It’s his second appearance; he represented Kansas City in 2019.) This was the closest race of them all; Merula won by less than 750 votes. His starting slot isn’t just the product of a fanatical fanbase, though; Merula has raised his game to become an elite two-way winger. He leads the Growlers with 14 goals (on 20.3% shooting, a top-ten figure in the league) and 27 points, while his 37 blocks are the most of any forward in the SHL.
D: Rudolf Kerasov, Anchorage. There’s a generational shift underway in the West, as evidenced by this result. Kerasov, who received the most votes of any blueliner in the division, is one of a shocking five first-time All-Stars on the Western squad. He is shining on both ends of the ice this season for the boys in baby blue; his 20 assists place him just outside the top ten in the SHL, while his 64 blocks represent a team high.
C: Jake Frost, Anchorage. Unlike his teammate Kerasov, Frost is an old hand at the midseason showcase. With the Igloos’ loyal backers firmly in his corner, the veteran center makes his fourth All-Star start after last season’s shocking omission. Frost’s resurgence in votes is tied to an upswing in his on-ice performance. He scored 26 goals in the first half, leading the SHL by 5 votes over his nearest competitor. His 35 points, meanwhile, is the third-highest in the league.
D: Brady Prussian, Milwaukee. Contrary to popular belief, Prussian is not a first-time All-Star. In fact, just last season he appeared in the All-Star Game… the CHL All-Star Game, that is. Prussian’s meteoric rise to stardom, combined with the enthusiastic support of Growlers fans, earned him this remarkable honor. He has 10 goals already on the season, one of only three defensemen in double digits in that category. He has a total of 26 points, one off of the team lead, along with 50 blocks and a 51.6 Corsi for %.
RW: Bengt Frederiksson, Kansas City. Last season, Frederiksson’s exceptional rookie campaign earned him an All-Star slot. He looks to be even better as a sophomore, and that was enough to win him the start, by about 1,500 votes over Anchorage’s Nicklas Ericsson. Frederiksson has 19 goals so far in the 2021 campaign, good for third in the SHL, while his 38 points places him second in the league.
LW: Jerry Koons, Anchorage. Koons narrowly lost the starting spot to Merula, but it comes as no surprise that Castor found a spot for him on the squad. Koons has appeared in every All-Star Game to date, one of three players on the West squad to earn that honor. (All three, coincidentally, play for the Igloos.) Although Koons is generally better known for scoring than passing, he has been an assist machine this season; his 27 assists are the second-highest total in the league. Thanks to his brilliance at setting up scores, he has 33 points on the season, tied for fourth in the SHL.
D: Gary Hermine, Kansas City. Hermine has blossomed into a top-level defenseman over the last couple of seasons, and Castor rewarded his emergence with a second straight All-Star spot. Hermine has long been valued more for his offensive contributions on the blueline than for his defense, but he’s taken his defensive game up a notch this season. The SHL leader in blocks this season? Believe it or not, it’s Hermine, whose 91 assists is five mor than his nearest competitor. He continues to shine on offense as well, with 22 points (4 goals, 18 assists) so far on the season.
C: Eddie Costello, Portland. The Bluebacks may have had a disappointing first half, but that didn’t stop Costello from garnering his third consecutive All-Star nod. While he made it as a starter last season thanks to Portland’s frenzied fan base, this time Costello is on as a reserve. Whatever the source of Portland’s woes so far, Costello is certainly not to blame: his 25 assists are good for third in the league, while his 32 points places him in the league’s top ten. Advanced stats are kind to him as well, as evidenced by his 51.5 CF%.
D: Zander Phthalo, Milwaukee. Phthalo is one of the many first-time All-Stars on the West. Milwaukee’s early success this season has helped raise the profile of Phthalo, along with several of his teammates. He doesn’t hesitate to sacrifice his body, as his 70 blocks place him firmly on the league leaderboard; on the other end, his 19 assists place him second on the team.
RW: Nicklas Ericsson, Anchorage. The veteran winger and passing wizard continues his string of All-Star appearances with a fifth consecutive honor. Lest you think that this is a charity selection by his own coach, Ericsson remains a key contributor on the high-performing top line of the first-place Igloos: he’s tied for fourth in the SHL in assists with 23, and he remains in the top ten in points with 31.
LW: Troy Chamberlain, Saskatchewan. Chamberlain is not one of the first-time All-Star crew (it’s his third appearance), but it’s been awhile. The last time that the winger received a spot in the game was in 2018. Chamberlain is not one of the league’s marquee names, but he has quietly put together a great season for the surprising Shockers. His 17 goals are good for fifth in the SHL, and tops among left wingers, ahead of some of the league’s biggest stars.
D: Sebastian Pomfret, Anchorage. Pomfret is becoming an All-Star regular; the blueliner is making an appearance in the game for the third consecutive year. He is one of six Anchorage players on the squad; no SHL team has more All-Star representatives. Pomfret is on pace to meet or beat career highs in a number of areas; in the first half, he has recorded 19 points (7 goals, 12 assists), 54 blocks, and a 51.1 CF%
C: Elliott Rafferty, Saskatchewan. The Shockers’ strong first half has been driven by great performances from several players, including Rafferty. The center’s tremendous play has earned him All-Star honors for the second time in his career. Rafferty has been paired full-time with fellow All-Star Chamberlain on the top line for the first time this season, and the pair are generating tremendous chemistry; Rafferty himself is in the top ten in the SHL in both goals (15) and points (31).
D: Rennie Cox, Saskatchewan. Cox is another of the first-time All-Stars. His strong play this season led Castor to give him the nod over his better-known Shockers teammates Wyatt Barnes and Chris Oflyng (both of whom have been chosen in years past). The West coach has expressed admiration for the hard-working Cox in the past, and this spot is a tribute to his well-balanced games. He’s tied for the lead in goals among Saskatchewan blueliners with 9, and his 23 points are second to Oflyng; meanwhile, his 69 blocks place him in the league’s top ten, second on the team to Barnes. He outshines both of his more famous teammates in plus/minus (+10) and CF (52.4%).
RW: Vince Mango, Portland. In spite of Portland’s lackluster start to the year, the famously camera-loving Mango continues to be one of the league’s top scorers, which allowed him to receive All-Star honors for the fourth season in a row. Mango is fourth in the league in goals with 18. And in spite of his reputation as a one-way player, Mango’s 51.5 CF% suggest that he has been effective at tilting the ice.
Ty Worthington, Anchorage. In a year when many of the league’s top netminders are posting disappointing numbers, especially in the West, Worthington is continuing to perform with his usual excellence. As a result, the voters rewarded him with his fifth straight All-Star appearance and his second start. Worthington, who came out as bisexual during the offseason, is second in the league in wins (13) and GAA (.917), while his 2.43 GAA is good enough for fourth.
Brandon Colt, Michigan. It’s hard to say which is more surprising: that the Wolves’ goalie is their only All-Star representative, or that it isn’t Dirk Lundquist. With Lundquist struggling badly this season, Castor turned instead to Colt, who has been a capable backup in Michigan this season. It’s the first All-Star appearance for the journeyman netminder. He has posted a winning record in spite of the Wolves’ offensive struggles, thanks to a 2.42 GAA that is third-lowest in the SHL. His .906 save percentage is tied with Kansas City’s Rocky Goldmire for second among Western netminders.