The first batch of NHL All-Stars for 2024 will be revealed Thursday night, and the Nashville Predators' top candidate figures to be Filip Forsberg.
The Predators had just one All-Star game selection in 2023, and it was Juuse Saros. With the way the voting works now, all 32 teams get at least one player in, and the rest is decided by a controversial fan vote that's more of a popularity content than it is on merit and individual results.
Filip Forsberg the Front Runner for Preds All-Star Game Selection
Usually the Predators are locked in to either get a goalie, for the longest time it was Pekka Rinne, or Roman Josi. Surprisingly, Forsberg has appeared in just one All-Star game in his NHL career, and that came in 2015 when he also participated in the skills competition.
Forsberg received All-Star votes in 2021, but the game was canceled due to the pandemic. It shows just how hard it is to make the All-Star game at such a skilled position like winger. If he's not the first selection, then you would think he defnitely gets in on the fan vote.
With Forsberg leading the Predators in points by a lot, 10 to be exact, and starting to take notice around the NHL as an underrated scoring winger, it would be absolutely shocking if he got left off the All-Star game roster again.
The problem is with this style of All-Star voting and each team getting representation, it comes down to picking enough players for each position. It's a numbers game, and if there are too many other wingers that get picked over Forsberg, then he could get overlooked.
Forsberg has 42 points in 38 games, which is top-20 in the NHL. He's also 8th in the NHL in total shots on goal.
As for the usual top choices of Saros or Josi, let's start first with Saros. Unfortunately he isn't deserving of an All-Star selection based on his performance so far. Of course he could rally in the second half and play much more up to this potential, but even his popularity in the fan vote shouldn't get him in.
Josi has a decent chance to get a significant amount of fan votes just because he's wildly popular among even fans outside the Predators fanbase. And even though Josi is having a quiet season by his own lofty personal standards, he is 8th among defensemen in points with 30.
The defensive game of Josi is still way behind some of the best in the NHL in this department, so unfortunately Josi is still more viewed as a one-dimensional defenseman. He's outside the top-40 in blocked shots, and will never be confused as a player that goes out there and lays out big hits.
For Josi to be deserving of the fan vote to get into the All-Star game, his offensive numbers need to be off the charts and near the top. While they're still very respectable and he's having another quality season, it's not been All-Star game worthy.
Ryan O'Reilly Deserves Serious Consideration in All-Star Game Fan Vote
That brings me to Ryan O'Reilly, the only player besides Forsberg that I think has a realistic chance to get a lot of love in the fan vote. Fans love O'Reilly and the way he carries himself, and a lot of people were intrigued by his surprise exit out of Toronto and choosing Nashville in the 2023 offseason. It's been a really fun story for the NHL.
O'Reilly is tied for 2nd in the NHL in power play goals with 10, just one behind the leader Sam Reinhart. With the way the Predators do damage on the power play and O'Reilly being the center focus, it's not unfathomable to think he could end up leading that category by season's end.
Much of the early season success the Predators have enjoyed under a new Head Coach in Andrew Brunette can be directly linked to O'Reilly's on-ice mentorship and abilities to impact the game on both ends.
With my Predators bias aside, O'Reilly is absolutely deserving of the fan vote to get into the All-Star game. He has given Nashville a legit top line that's hard to deal with for the opposition, and has played a crucial role in Forsberg's success and Gus Nyquist also having a revival of his NHL career.
O'Reilly has played in three career All-Star games and last played in 2020 while representing the St.Louis Blues for the Central Division squad.