It’s been more than two weeks since we’ve seen Blackhawks rookie Connor Bedard on the ice, and he’s still out with a fractured jaw he suffered at the beginning of the year. The young superstar, who was set to become the youngest player ever to play in the NHL All-Star Game, will now miss that opportunity, as he isn’t set to make his return until the latter part of February.
Bedard missing the All-Star Game isn’t exactly breaking news, as his return timeline hasn’t yet changed (though he’s already doing plenty on the ice). However, the Blackhawks got more unpleasant news Monday when it was announced that the team won’t have an All-Star Game representative at all, the first time since 2004.
Instead of giving another Chicago skater the opportunity to play at the All-Star Game, the NHL named Vincent Trocheck of the Rangers and Kyle Connor of the Jets to the team to replace Bedard and Golden Knights forward Jack Eichel. The decision isn’t entirely unprecedented after last season, which saw Knights forward Chandler Stephenson selected as a replacement for injured Kraken skater Matty Beniers.
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The announcement is certainly understandable – Trocheck has tallied 44 points and Connor has 29 on the year, both more than any Blackhawk besides Bedard. However, it’s certainly frustrating news for a Blackhawks team that was hoping to get forward Jason Dickinson to his first All-Star Game. The 28-year-old is having a career year with 24 points and a plus-minus of +10, even on a bottom-dwelling Chicago team. He’s played well enough to earn a two-year, $4.25 million AAV contract extension, and is a leader both on and off the ice. Dickinson also grew up just outside Toronto and undoubtedly would have relished the opportunity to represent his team among the NHL’s biggest stars.
While somewhat less likely to receive All-Star honors, Blackhawks goaltender Petr Mrazek has also made a compelling case to at least be considered. His .906 save percentage and 3.04 GAA are great, but don’t tell the full story: he’s standing on his head behind one of the worst defenses in hockey just to give his team a fighting chance. Mrazek is having a bit of a career revival and is likely playing his way into a contract extension as well. He has one of the toughest jobs of any player in hockey, and he’s doing it well.
The decision makes sense for the NHL, but a few Blackhawks will be a bit disappointed with the announcement. Bedard would have been a perfect representative for Chicago at the annual event, but players like Dickinson and Mrazek clearly deserve consideration as well, but apparently not this season.