Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman always hoped he'd make his second NHL All-Star Game appearance this season, especially because it's in Tampa on Jan. 27.
But with an unfavorable roster format, and three Lightning teammates already locks for the 10-member Atlantic Division team – Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Andrei Vasilevskiy – Hedman didn't know if he'd make it.
"I wasn't really having high expectations," Hedman told the Times Wednesday. "There's a lot of guys that are really deserving on our team."
That's why Hedman was so excited that he'll join his three teammates – Stamkos, Kucherov and Vasilevskiy – in All-Star weekend. This is the most all stars the Lightning has ever sent. And it's not surprising that the Lightning (31-9-3), which boasts the league's best record, has the league's most all-stars. Plus coach Jon Cooper behind the bench for the Atlantic.
They could field an entire 3-on-3 team with Lightning players, with Vasilevskiy in net.
"I hope so," Hedman said. "It'd be pretty cool. It could be a good lineup, and very special for us to have that opportunity."
Stamkos was named captain of the Atlantic All-Star team last week. Cooper was announced coach a few days later. Kucherov, tied for the league-lead with 27 goals, was a no-brainer among the Atlantic's six forwards.
But for Vasilevskiy, who leads the league in all major goalie statistics, it his is first one.
"He was a lock in my opinion," Hedman said. "He's been arguably the top goaltender in the league this year. If it was not for him, I don't know where we'd be in the standings or how we would have finished. He's won so many games for us.
"That was not a surprise, in my eyes, that he got picked for his first one. Without a doubt it won't be his last one."
2018 Honda NHL All-Star Game Rosters
Atlantic Division (All-Star appearance)
F Aleksander Barkov, FLA (1st)
F Jack Eichel, BUF (1st)
F Nikita Kucherov, TBL (2nd)
F Brad Marchand, BOS (2nd)
F Auston Matthews, TOR (2nd)
F Steven Stamkos, TBL* (5th)
D Mike Green, DET (2nd)
D Victor Hedman, TBL (2nd)
D Erik Karlsson, OTT (5th)
G Carey Price, MTL (6th)
G Andrei Vasilevskiy, TBL (1st)
Head Coach: Jon Cooper, TBL (1st)
Metropolitan Division (All-Star appearance)
F Josh Bailey, NYI (1st)
F Sidney Crosby, PIT (3rd)
F Claude Giroux, PHI (5th)
F Taylor Hall, NJD (3rd)
F Alex Ovechkin, WSH* (7th)
F John Tavares, NYI (5th)
D Noah Hanifin, CAR (1st)
D Seth Jones, CBJ (2nd)
D Kris Letang, PIT (4th)
G Braden Holtby, WSH (3rd)
G Henrik Lundqvist, NYR (4th)
Head Coach: Barry Trotz, WSH (3rd)
Central Division (All-Star appearance)
F Patrick Kane, CHI (7th)
F Nathan MacKinnon, COL (2nd)
F Brayden Schenn, STL (1st)
F Tyler Seguin, DAL (5th)
F Eric Staal, MIN (5th)
F Blake Wheeler, WPG (1st)
D John Klingberg, DAL (1st)
D Alex Pietrangelo, STL (1st)
D P.K. Subban, NSH* (3rd)
G Connor Hellebuyck, WPG (1st)
G Pekka Rinne, NSH (2nd)
Head Coach: Peter Laviolette, NSH (3rd)
Pacific Division (All-Star appearance)
F Brock Boeser, VAN (1st)
F Johnny Gaudreau, CGY (4th)
F Anze Kopitar, LAK (4th)
F Connor McDavid, EDM* (2nd)
F James Neal, VGK (3rd)
F Rickard Rakell, ANA (1st)
D Brent Burns, SJS (5th)
D Drew Doughty, LAK (4th)
D Oliver Ekman-Larsson, ARI (2nd)
G Marc-Andre Fleury, VGK (3rd)
G Jonathan Quick, LAK (3rd)
Head Coach: Gerard Gallant, VGK (2nd)