WICHITA, Kan. – The 24th ECHL All-Star Classic in Toledo will take place in less than a month and as members of the media, coaches and league officials get their picks in, I thought I’d share who would be on my ballot…if I were allowed to vote.

Here’s the format for the game, in case you were wondering:

Courtesy: Toledo Walleye

The premise for putting the teams together is pretty simple:

  1. The teams will consist of five forwards, four defensemen, and a netminder, so as to meet the 3-on-3 format of this year’s event.
  2. Not every ECHL team is represented in this exercise. Rather, I’m choosing the 10 best players in each conference. Because Toledo has its own squads, there will be no Walleye representation on the Western Conference team.
  3. Position players must have played in at least 15 games to be eligible, while netminders must have appeared in at least 10 games during the regular season.
  4. Each roster will be a mix of rookies, tweeners, and veterans.
  5. The coaches with the highest winning percentages as of December 22 will be the all-star coaches. Coaches with the second-best winning percentage in their respective conference will be tabbed the assistant coach.

Both squads have a mix of skill and speed up front, combined with play-making, responsible defensemen on the back end. In a 3-on-3 format, you need both things to be successful. Particularly with the forwards, I went with guys who have had success in offensive situations; whether it was scoring first, on special teams or salting the game away. While the number of points they put up are impressive, a player’s true value comes in the situational stats toward the right side of the stat line.

So, without further adieu, here’s my Eastern Conference team.

Forwards (in alphabetical order by team):

Brandon Marino (Brampton): Every team needs a puck distributor and this squad has its in Marino. His 22 assists are tied for fifth-most in the ECHL at the Christmas break. Further, 12 of his 29 points have come on special teams. Marino has been the consummate captain in Brampton, and his impact on the Beast organization for the last several years has been greatly overlooked by many outside of the Beast’s orbit.

John McCarron (Florida): The power forward for the Everblades is a guy you can insert into any situation and he’ll be successful. Through the pre-Christmas portion of the schedule, McCarron has piled up 30 points (14G, 16A) in 29 games played. Nine of his 14 goals have come in key situations (to open the scoring, on special teams, or to win the game). McCarron is defensively strong, too, with a +20 rating, tied for second-best in the ECHL.

Johno May (Greenville): If there’s a bright spot on an under-performing Greenville team, Johno May is it. The rookie is building off the success he had in Greenville last season when he piled up six points (1G, 5A) in eight games. This season, May has become a lamplighter, leading all ECHL rookies with 17 goals on the campaign. May has been strong on special teams, too, with six of his 17 goals coming on the man-advantage.

Giorgio Estephan (Newfoundland): The Growlers have been vastly exceeding expectations this season and part of the reason why is their impressive crop of rookies, led by Giorgio Estephan. The rookie forward is tied for second overall in rookie scoring with 29 points (13G, 16A). Estephan is a player you can put in every situation; with five power-play goals, four lamplighters to open the scoring, and three game-winning goals. His playmaking ability is another aspect of his game, as his 16 assists are tied for sixth-most among league rookies.

Jonathan Charbonneau (South Carolina): The first-year forward from St-Colombant, Quebec has put together a very solid rookie campaign, and currently sits tied for second in rookie scoring with 29 points (8G, 21A) at the Christmas break, with 13 of those coming on the power-play. His 21 assists sit one behind Steven Iacobellis for the lead among rookies.

Defense (in alphabetical order by team):

Sean Day (Maine): Since being assigned to the Mariners in mid-November, the rookie defenseman has been very solid, putting up 15 points (4G, 11A) in 19 games. Three of his four goals have come in key situations, while six of his 11 assists have come on special teams. Day is evolving into a well-rounded defenseman a coach can put in critical situations.

Jalen Smereck (Norfolk): On an Admirals roster that’s been beaten up by injuries and call-ups, Smereck has been a huge bright spot. The rookie blueliner has 19 points, including 17 assists, which is tied for fifth-most among all ECHL defensemen.

Michael Brodzinski (Orlando): Perhaps the most well-rounded (and most seasoned) defenseman of this group comes from the City Beautiful. Brodzinski, an ECHL award winner in October, has continued to build on his excellent start to the season. At the Christmas break, he has 15 points (5G, 10A) in 28 games, is a +14 (fourth-best among defensemen) and is a guy that Drake Berehowskycan trust in all situations.

Kevin McKernan (South Carolina): The rookie rearguardsman on the South Carolina blueline has been extremely solid to start the season, chipping in 17 points (4G, 13A) and a +10 rating on a Stingrays squad that has struggled to find their defensive footing.

Goaltender (in alphabetical order by team):

Evan Buitenhuis (Worcester): If it weren’t for Worcester being the worst offensive team in the ECHL (2.37 goals for per game average), Evan Buitenhuis would likely have a better record and be given serious consideration for ECHL Rookie of the Year. Still, for the rookie netminder to put together a 5-5-2-1 record, a 2.23 goals against average and a .929 save percentage in 15 appearances is extremely solid and he gets the nod over Jamie Phillips in Florida.

COACHES: Brad Ralph (Florida,) John Snowden (Newfoundland)

ROSTER BREAKDOWN: 7 rookies, 2 “tweeners”, 1 veteran

Now…here’s my Western Conference team:

Forwards (in alphabetical order by team):

Jesse Schultz (Cincinnati): Schultz has picked up right where he left off last season, piling up points for the best team in the Western Conference. At the break, Schultz has 28 points (8G, 20A) in 29 games, seven power-play points (1G, 6A) and three game-winning goals.

Jake Kamrass (Fort Wayne): A part of the trade with South Carolina that cleared room for Shawn Szydlowski, Kamrass has been a dynamic forward for the Komets this season. The rookie is seventh in scoring among first-year players with 26 points (12G, 14A) in 29 games. He also has three game-winning goals, which is tied for the most among rookies.

Caleb Herbert (Utah): If there is an MVP favorite at the holiday break, it has to be this guy. Herbert has been extremely impressive this season, piling up 38 points (19G, 19A) in just 26 games played. The 2010 fifth-round draft pick has scored five power-play goals, four game-winning tallies, and eight other goals in key situations.

Nick Saracino (Wheeling): The sophomore forward from St. Louis has already equaled his offensive output from his 61-game rookie season in Worcester, with 37 points (17G, 20A) in 27 games played this season. Nine of his 37 points have come via special teams (5G, 4A) and he has a pair of game-winning tallies.

Steven Iacobellis (Wichita): Iacobellis has been a very pleasant surprise for the Wichita Thunder this season, and in some ways, can be looked at for saving the team’s season early on when there was only one line scoring. The rookie forward has 32 points (10G, 22A) in 27 games this season, which leads all rookies. Digging deeper, Iacobellis has an impressive 15 points on the power play (4G, 11A) which is tied with his teammate Keoni Texeira for the rookie lead. Iacobellis has scored three game-winning goals and four others in various key situations.

Defense (in alphabetical order by team):

Alex Breton (Allen): The rookie forward has been one of the bright spots on an otherwise poorly performing Allen Americans squad. His 23 points (5G, 18A) are third overall among ECHL defensemen, while his 12 power-play points are second among all defensemen.

Willie Raskob (Kansas City): Interestingly, Raskob is the only repeat all-star on this entire squad. Entering the break, Raskob was fifth in scoring among blueliners and had 10 points on the power-play (2G, 8A). He is also a distributor of the puck at even strength, with nine assists currently.

Kevin Spinozzi (Wheeling): The rookie from Granby, Quebec paces all defensemen with 28 points (11G, 17A) in 26 games this season. His 11 goals lead all ECHL defensemen, while his 17 assists are tied for fifth most. Three of his 11 lamplighters are game-winners, which is tied with Steve Kaunisto for the most among defensemen.

Keoni Texeira (Wichita): Texeira, a native of Fontana, California, is the ultimate puck-distributor, as demonstrated by his 19 assists, which are second-most among ECHL defensemen. His 15 power-play assists are most in the ECHL. Digging deeper, Texeira is minus-1 on a Wichita team which has struggled defensively at times this season, and he is currently anchoring the defense.

Goaltender (in alphabetical order by team):

Tomas Sholl (Idaho): After bursting on to the scene last year, Sholl is backing the impressive start to his ECHL career with 9-4-0-0 record, 2.13 goals against average, a .930 save percentage and a pair of shutouts in 13 appearances this season.

COACHES: Matt Thomas (Cincinnati), Tim Branham (Utah)

ROSTER BREAKDOWN: 6 rookies, 3 “tweeners”, 1 veteran

What do you think of the rosters? Don’t worry, you’ll get a chance to vote on who you’d send to the All-Star Classic very soon.

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