Three candidates to represent the Calgary Wranglers at the 2023 AHL All-Star Classic
Photo credit:Candice Ward/Calgary Wranglers
By Mike Gould8 months ago
We’re exactly a month away from the start of the 2023 AHL All-Star Classic in Laval, Quebec, and the Calgary Wranglers already have one confirmed representative for the weekend’s festivities.
We already know that Wranglers head coach Mitch Love will be there to serve as the bench boss for the Pacific Division All-Stars. Love garnered the nod on New Years’ Day after leading Calgary to a league-best 21–7–1 record through the first half of the 2022–23 season.
But Love won’t be the only one representing the Wranglers at Place Bell on February 5 and 6. There’ll also be at least one (and probably two) Wranglers players there to take part in all the fun. And, as one of the AHL’s top clubs, the Wranglers have no shortage of worthy candidates to attend.
Here’s a quick look at three Wranglers stars who could head east for the All-Star Classic next month. (Worth noting: FlamesNation will also be on location in Laval to fully capture the spectacle of the weekend.)
This one is a no-brainer. Wolf is the reigning AHL goaltender of the year and already looks like the leading candidate to capture that award again this season. His numbers speak for themselves.
Wolf, 21, has a 19–4–0 record, four shutouts, and a .932 save percentage in 24 games with the Wranglers this season. He has six more wins and two more shutouts than any other AHL goaltender. Only Brandon Bussi of the Providence Bruins has a better save percentage (.935), and he’s three years older and has appeared in nine fewer games.
Something will have gone wrong if Wolf and Lukas Dostal aren’t the two Pacific Division goaltenders at the All-Star Game. And, of those two, Wolf is the better candidate by a long shot. The 2019 seventh-round pick has a 54–14–4 record through the first 74 regular-season games of his AHL career and is less than a year removed from a deep playoff run with the Stockton Heat.
He’ll be there. Book it.
Based entirely on merit, Phillips deserves to be in Laval next month. He remains tied for the AHL lead with 19 goals and is third with 37 points despite missing nearly three weeks of action during his NHL recall with the Flames. There are very few skaters, if any, currently better than Phillips at the AHL level.
But there are questions about numbers. The Pacific Division is extremely crowded, with players from 10 teams vying for spots at the All-Star Game. The Wranglers have certainly earned the right to send multiple representatives, but Wolf looks to be more of a lock than Phillips.
If it comes down to which skater the Wranglers should send, it’ll be tough to pick between Phillips and the next guy on this list. Phillips is, by every measure, the offensive driver of this Wranglers team. He’ll be in high demand as an unrestricted free agent this coming summer. If he were on a team in the North or Central Division, he’d be a lock.
But there will be other factors at play. Make no mistake: even if external circumstances render Phillips snubbed, he’s having an All-Star year in all regards.
Pelletier, like Phillips, is a star forward on one of the top teams in the league. The difference between the two is, will the AHL pass up the opportunity to bring one of its most marketable and entertaining young stars to a marquee event in his home province?
Phillips is third in AHL scoring. Pelletier is eighth. Both players are having fantastic years and it would be a wonderful story to see them head to the All-Star Game together. But there just might not be enough room for the two of them on the Pacific Division roster.
This year’s AHL All-Star Game is sure to be a big media event. Even moreso than Montreal, Laval is a primarily francophone city. It’d be a tantalizing prospect for some of the top French-Canadian stars from around the AHL to descend upon the league’s lone Quebec market.
And even with Phillips having a ridiculously impressive season, it certainly isn’t as though Pelletier has been a slouch. He’s more than living up to his pedigree as a first-round pick who played for Team Canada at the World Juniors. He’s second to Phillips in the team scoring race with 15 goals and 34 points in 31 games this year.
Each of three of these players deserves to be recognized for their contributions to the Wranglers this season. No matter what happens at All-Star, they’re all stars.
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