Alex Ovechkin would like to be spending late January preparing for the 2018 Winter Olympic Hockey Tournament in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
But with the NHL refusing to allow its players to participate in the major international competition, the 2018 NHL All-Star Game in Tampa Bay, Fla. will have to do.
On Wednesday, Ovechkin was named as one of the four divisional captains for the 2018 NHL All-Star Game, which will once again use a 3-on-3 tournament-style format. Ovechkin will be joined in his 12th All-Star appearance by Atlantic Division captain Steven Stamkos (Lightning), Central Division captain PK Subban (Predators) and Pacific Division captain Connor McDavid (Oilers).
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The nomination is further validation of Ovechkin's remarkable first-half. The 32-year old was supposed to be on the backside of his career after the team's "two-year window" finally closed with a disappointing playoff loss to the Penguins in May.
But Ovechkin rewrote the script.
Through the first 41 games of the season, Ovechkin leads the league with 26 goals and ranks in the top ten in both game-winning goals (5) and power play goals (7). But it's not just what he's done, but how he's had to do it: with an overhauled roster featuring a bevy of younger, less experienced teammates than he's had in seasons past.
Although the All-Star Game is nothing more than an exhibition, the nomination he received further establishes the respect he commands across the league.
Head coach Barry Trotz was asked about the level of respect Ovechkin garners, not just from his teammates, but his opposition as well.
"It's hard to be in this league play at a very high level and produce at a high level for a long time," he said.
"If you're able to do that, you're usually going to the Hall of Fame. Plain and simple. I think players recognize greatness. ... The generation recognizes that him and [Sidney Crosby] have elevated the game in their window and have been the faces of the NHL and their franchises for a long, long time. That's undeniable and I think that as you keep producing and you keep doing what you're doing at a high level, you're going to get that respect. That's the longevity and the production. When those two things come together, that usually is called greatness."
The 2018 NHL All-Star Game will take place at Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay, Fla. on Sunday, Jan. 28 at 3:00 p.m. ET on NBC.
The All-Star Skills Competition will take place a day prior on Saturday, Jan. 24 at 7:00 p.m. ET.