2024 NHL All-Star Game: Favorite line combos, predictions

ByESPN staff ESPN logo
Saturday, February 3, 2024

After a humorous All-Star player draft on Thursday and a thrilling night of All-Star skills on Friday, it's time for the final event of 2024 NHL All-Star Weekend: the game(s)!

It's a simple format: two semifinals of 3-on-3 hockey, followed by the winners of those games squaring off in the final. First up will be Team MacKinnon vs. Team McDavid at 3 p.m. ET, then Team Hughes vs. Team Matthews at 4 p.m. ET, followed by the championship game at 5 p.m. ET. All three games will be broadcast on ABC, and simulcast on ESPN+.

Before the games begin, which line combinations are we most excited to see? Which draft selections were the most questionable? And who will win it all?

What lineup trio are you most excited to see?

Ryan S. Clark, NHL reporter: Any combination from Team Hughes that features some mix of Quinn Hughes, Brock Boeser, Kyle Connor, J.T. Miller, Brady Tkachuk or Frank Vatrano. That amounts to six elite American players, and any one of those three who are on the ice further justifies what makes the United States look extremely promising in the buildup to the 2025 4 Nations tournament and the Olympics in 2026.

Victoria Matiash, NHL analyst: If tossed together, give me Nikita Kucherov's vision and playmaking abilities in harmony with Kyle Connor's knack for putting the puck in the net, along with everything Brady Tkachuk does superbly, when others on Team Hughes are resting on the bench.

Arda cal, NHL broadcaster:Nathan MacKinnon-Sidney Crosby gives us the Nova Scotia connection, buddies who party at each other's Stanley Cup celebrations back home over the summer, and two of the best players in history. Add a human highlight reel in Kirill Kaprizov -- yeah, that's a heck of a trio right there.

Kristen Shilton, NHL reporter: I'm feeling a David Pastrnak-Connor McDavid-Leon Draisaitl situation. It seemed like Team McDavid was the quieter group in Thursday's draft, but their squad is sneaky good. And given the history between Draisaitl and Pastrnak that has never (until now) translated into them being able to play together in an event of this magnitude -- I think it would be pretty cool to see.

Greg Wyshynski, NHL reporter: You've got to give the people what they want. And by "people" I mean all those Leafs lovers in the arena who want to see their guys put on a show on home. Toss Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander and Morgan Rielly's name in a hat, pull out a trio and watch them deliver a (glorified exhibition game overtime) championship to the Centre of the Hockey Universe.

What was the most questionable draft selection?

Clark: Sam Reinhart going in the fifth round to Team McDavid. For starters, they didn't need more goals. They have the three players -- McDavid, Draisaitl and Pastrnak -- who finished first, second and third in points last season.

But beyond that, an argument can be made Reinhart should have gone higher. A perennial 20-goal scorer, he has already achieved a third straight 30-goal season and is on pace to finish with more than 60; he sits second in the goal-scoring race right now, with 37. We suppose a 27.6% shooting percentage helps.

Matiash: I'm not suggesting Tom Wilson doesn't bring his own brand of panache to any roster, in any form of competition, but I'm also probably not picking the Capitals forward before Reinhart or Filip Forsberg or Vincent Trocheck, as Team MacKinnon did Thursday evening.

cal: Too much of the captains sticking to their NHL teammates for me overall. I get it, you want to play with your boys, but I would have loved some mix-and-match -- we didn't even get a trade! In terms of one specific selection, it was Alexandar Georgiev to Team MacKinnon. I would have loved the drama of seeing him selected by another team, then MacKinnon, Cale Makar and Tate McRae having to orchestrate a trade.

Shilton: Vincent Trocheck landing in the bottom four was crazy to me. He's a point-per-game guy this season! And while all four teams had selected scoring talent to that stage of the night, it still felt like Trocheck should have been off the board well before Dave Keon came out and handed him his secret envelope. I'm looking at him to have a big game on Saturday just to show the other captains how badly they whiffed.

Wyshynski: I still think defense wins championships, so I still think that the right goaltenders can win the All-Star Game tournament. To the other three teams that allowed the squad with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl to also have Connor Hellebuyck and Sergei Bobrovsky: What were you thinking?

Which team wins the championship?

Clark: Let's go with Team MacKinnon. They have several players who can score and create for others. Having a goaltending tandem of Georgiev and Jeremy Swayman also helps. Yet the detail that could prove the most pivotal is that they have a number of players with two-way ability, which might give them an advantage in those late-game situations, trying to hold a lead.

Matiash: Team McDavid includes the best skater in the world, arguably the top goaltender in the game in Connor Hellebuyck, a Boston winger who could find himself an eventual Hart Trophy nominee, the player with the second-most goals to date, and one of the better two-way forwards in Boone Jenner (an underrated asset, in my opinion). Oh, and Leon Draisaitl. If Team Matthews doesn't derive too much extra oomph from playing in front of the hometown crowd, I like this squad's chances.

cal: Team Leafs ... err, Matthews got the job done in front of the home crowd at the draft Thursday, and I say the good vibes continue Saturday. With the teams built how they are, we could hear the most booing we've heard ever at an All-Star Game. Team Matthews vs. Team Hughes in the opening round ... Leafs vs. Canucks ... Team Hughes will definitely be playing the role of the heel in Toronto for that one.

Shilton: I'll also take Team Matthews. They're got familiarity (with all four Maple Leafs together), their goaltenders (Jake Oettinger and Igor Shesterkin) are incredible, and they'll just be having a lot of fun -- which can translate into success! Plus, you know the hometown crowd will have their backs. Matthews' crew might run away with this thing.

Wyshynski: The Can-Am Connection on Team Hughes. We have a team with the core five players from the first-place Vancouver Canucks along with American heroes Brady Tkachuk, Kyle Connor and general manager Jack Hughes. Oh, and some guy named Nikita Kucherov who's leading the NHL in scoring at the break.

Related Video