At any level, from peewee to the NHL, all-star selections are a subjective process at the best of times.
Often, all-star games are as much about league marketing than a showcase of the actual stars, and not necessarily a true reflection of the best players from a given league.
Jordan Eberle of the Edmonton Oilers probably belongs in the NHL all-star game, but a knee injury ostensibly excluded him when the selections were announced this month.
The Oilers’ top scorer (and arguably their most complete player) recovered faster than expected — and was set to return to Edmonton’s lineup last night — but Eberle might still be on the outside looking in when the all-star game is played Jan. 29.
Such ambiguity has filtered all the way down to the Alberta Midget Hockey League, where the most glaring omission for the Feb. 5 all-star game is Red Deer Optimist Rebels rookie centre Ty Mappin, whom the Everett Silvertips selected seventh overall in the 2011 WHL bantam draft.
The kid from Big Valley is the lone 15-year-old with a reputable Red Deer team that leads the South Division. Mappin is the Rebels’ top scorer, with 16 goals and 35 points in 28 games.
His post-Christmas surge has vaulted him into seventh place in AMHL scoring.
Despite consistently overachieving against older players, Mappin hasn’t been invited to Edmonton for the league’s all-star weekend, which includes a banquet and appearances from Western Hockey League guests.
Mappin is well on his way to the WHL, likely as early as next season, which means he’ll probably never get another chance to be an ‘all-star’ in the province’s premier midget league.
That’s unfortunate, considering he has represented the league so well on and off the ice.
Consider, too, that earlier this season, Rebels coach Doug Quinn ranked Mappin as “certainly the most talented player that I’ve coached” in his three years of running the Red Deer bench.
Interestingly enough, Quinn and his assistants are also the coaching staff for the South entry in the AMHL all-star game. According to the selection process outlined on the league website, they picked Rebels forwards Scott Feser and Logan Fisher as additions to their all-star roster, which already included two other Red Deer players. Rebels goaltender Dasan Sydora and defenceman Joel Topping were among the first-team all-star choices that were determined in a vote conducted by the league’s coaches.
As is usually the case with all-star picks, there’s little doubt that the four Rebels bound for the league showcase are worthy selections and big reasons why Red Deer is a contender in the AMHL.
It’s disconcerting, though, that the league has missed an opportunity to recognize a kid who not only has the potential to become a WHL franchise player, but more relevantly has proven day in and day out this season that he is indeed an AMHL all-star.
It’s even more puzzling in consideration that the Rebels are sending more players to the all-star game than any of the league’s 18 teams, and that the Red Deer coaching staff had direct input in the selections.
For anyone suggesting that Mappin’s youth kept him off the all-star list, it’s worth noting that the North Division roster includes a 1996-born forward in John Quenneville of the SSAC (Edmonton) Athletics. Quenneville, a third-round draft pick of the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings, is tied for 56th in AMHL scoring, with nine goals and 21 points in 23 games.
The North lineup also includes St. Albert Sports Raiders forward Trace Elson, a prospect of the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels and brother of Rebels winger Turner Elson.
At the AMHL all-star game, the younger Elson goes up against fellow Rebels prospect Feser, who is 18th in AMHL scoring with 13 goals and 29 points after 28 games.
Fisher, who is listed by the WHL’s Victoria Royals, has 25 points in 28 games, leaving him 32nd in AMHL scoring.
Topping, a second-round draft pick of the Lethbridge Hurricanes, is Red Deer’s top-scoring defenceman. Topping’s 24 points in 28 games put him 40th overall on the AMHL scoring list.
Sydora is second in AMHL goaltending, with a 1.88 goals-against average and a .912 save percentage.
OVERTIME: The Rebels’ second-leading scorer is Brady Bakke, who is 12th in AMHL scoring after netting six goals in one game last Saturday — an 8-1 win over the Grande Prairie Storm. Bakke has 17 goals and 31 points in 28 games.