Kessel returns to all-star game, but won’t be picked last

Phil Kessel is heading back to the NHL all-star game and it’s hard to imagine he’ll have to wait until the end of the draft before hearing his name called this time.

Toronto Maple Leaf Dion Phaneuf

Toronto Maple Leaf Dion Phaneuf

Phil Kessel is heading back to the NHL all-star game and it’s hard to imagine he’ll have to wait until the end of the draft before hearing his name called this time.

The Toronto Maple Leafs forward was among the final 36 players added to the event by the league’s hockey operations department Thursday, joining Maple Leafs teammates Joffrey Lupul and Dion Phaneuf for the Jan. 29 game at Scotiabank Place.

Kessel’s participation in last year’s all-star weekend is best remembered for him becoming the last selection in the inaugural draft — a somewhat embarrassing moment that included Capitals star Alex Ovechkin chuckling and snapping a photo of Kessel sitting alone waiting to be picked.

“Hopefully he’s not selected last two years in a row,” Lupul said Thursday. “But he got a car for it, so I mean it’s not all bad, right?”

Besides, no one is laughing now.

Kessel has been among the league’s most prolific players all season and entered play Thursday sitting second overall in scoring with 48 points, two behind Vancouver Canucks forward Henrik Sedin, another newly minted all-star.

In fact, the top nine scorers so far will all be in attendance, a list that includes Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux, Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos, Vancouver’s Daniel Sedin, Chicago’s Marian Hossa, Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin and Ottawa’s Jason Spezza, along with Henrik Sedin, Kessel and Lupul.

The other attendees include names like Ovechkin, Jonathan Toews, Corey Perry, Zdeno Chara, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Lundqvist — making it a who’s-who gathering of NHL players.

“I think it means a lot (to be there),” said Henrik Sedin. “It’s one of those things I think you’re going to look back at when you’re done playing (and feel proud) that you’ve been to one or a few of those. That’s something you can tell your grandkids.”

The draft format will remain for this year’s event but is expected to include a few changes — with one source indicating a defenceman could be left until the end. As the last man standing a year ago, Kessel received US$20,000 for charity and a Honda CR-Z hybrid.

“I’ve still got it,” he said Thursday.

A similar bounty is expected to soften the blow for the final player selected at the all-star draft in Ottawa.

The NHL Players’ Association worked in close consultation with league executive Rob Blake on the organization of the event and players were overwhelming in favour of keeping a last man standing.

The captains and assistants in charge of selecting the all-star teams will be announced next week. One of them is expected to be Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson, who fans previously voted into the game along with teammates Erik Karlsson, Milan Michalek and Spezza.

The Senators are the best represented team. The Canucks, Leafs, Bruins, Rangers and Blackhawks all have three players participating in the all-star game.

The Sedin twins are joined by Canucks teammate Alexander Edler while Calgary will be represented by Jarome Iginla, another potential choice to captain one of the all-star teams. Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price and Winnipeg Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien will also participate.

As in past years, a number of worthy candidates will miss out on the event. Injuries kept Oilers forwards Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins from receiving an invite, while veteran Red Wings defenceman Nick Lidstrom and Ducks forward Teemu Selanne each asked to be overlooked.

“I’ve been there many times,” said Selanne, a 10-time all-star. “I honestly think for the young players it’s a good opportunity.”

For the Maple Leafs, it will be the first time the team had three representatives since they hosted the event at Air Canada Centre in 2000. It’s an encouraging sign for the organization.

“I think all three really deserve it,” said Leafs coach Ron Wilson.

“And it says a lot for the direction our team is going in, and the type of season that we’ve had so far. There’s no charity picks here, we’re not in a boat where we have to send somebody.

“All three guys have played really well this year.”

Added Kessel: “I think it should be a good time.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Red Deer RCMP say a 30-year-old man faces sexual charges against a teen. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Man killed in two-vehicle collision near Penhold, says Blackfalds RCMP

A 46-year-old man is dead following a two-vehicle collision on Highway 42… Continue reading

(Photo by Paul Cowley/ Advocate Staff)
Mask bylaws not popular in rural areas

Red Deer and Blackfalds bylaws requiring masks in public places kick in on Monday

Red Deer RCMP say a 30-year-old man faces sexual charges against a teen. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Innisfail RCMP arrest man following ‘lengthy pursuit’

Innisfail RCMP say a “lengthy pursuit” through a rural area ended with… Continue reading

Red Deer South MLA Jason Stephan speaks in the Alberta Legislature on Wednesday in this image from his Facebook page.
Red Deer MLA Jason Stephan sounds off on socialism in anti-lockdown speech

Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan has applauded his government’s COVID-19 response, saying… Continue reading

hay
Hay’s Daze: Giraffe knows filling wishes can sometimes be a tall order

Last weekend, I had a lovely breakfast. “So what?” you may say.… Continue reading

A person enters a building as snow falls in Ottawa, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. Ottawa has been successful in limiting the spread of COVID-19 during its second wave thanks to the city’s residents who have been wearing masks and staying home, said Ottawa’s medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
People to thank for Ottawa’s success with curbing COVID-19: health officer

The city’s chief medical officer said much of the credit goes to the people who live in Ottawa

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh asks a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says tonight's public video gaming session with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is about reaching young people where they hang. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
NDP leader stoked over ‘epic crossover’ in video gaming sesh with AOC

Singh and AOC discussed importance of universal pharmacare, political civility, a living wage

A south view of the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf breaking apart is seen from Ward Hunt Island, Nunavut, in an Aug. 20, 2011, handout photo. The remote area in the northern reach of the Nunavut Territory, has seen ice cover shrink from over 4 metres thick in the 1950s to complete loss, according to scientists, during recent years of record warming. Scientists are urging the federal government to permanently protect a vast stretch of Canada's remotest High Arctic called the Last Ice Area. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-CEN/Laval University, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Scientists urge permanent protection of Last Ice Area in Canada’s High Arctic

Tuvaijuittuq has the thickest and oldest ice in the Arctic

In this file photo, a lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018. (By THE CANADIAN PRESS)
No winning ticket for Friday night’s $55 million Lotto Max jackpot

No winning ticket was sold for the $55 million jackpot in Friday… Continue reading

In this Friday, March 13, 2020, photo, Nic Talbott looks up from his computer at his home in Lisbon, Ohio. Talbott was participating in an Army ROTC program after an Obama administration policy permitted transgender people already serving in the military to be allowed to do so openly. As vice president in 2012, Joe Biden endeared himself to many LGBTQ Americans by endorsing same-sex marriage even before Obama. Now, as president-elect, Biden is making sweeping promises to LGBTQ activists, proposing to carry out virtually every major proposal on their wish lists. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Biden plans swift moves to protect and advance LGBTQ rights

As vice-president in 2012, Joe Biden endeared himself to many LGBTQ Americans… Continue reading

Canadian Olympic gymnast and National Sport School alumni Kyle Shewfelt announces his retirement in Calgary, Thursday, May 21, 2009. Calgary's board of education will close the National Sport School that has produced Olympic and Paralympic champions for 26 years. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Calgary’s National Sport School to close, looks to join a different school division

Calgary’s National Sport School to close, looks to join a different school division

Canada's Erica Wiebe, left, celebrates after defeating Nigeria's Blessing Onyebuchi, right on the ground, to win Gold medal in women's FS 76Kg wrestling at the Commonwealth Games on Gold Coast, Australia, Thursday, April 12, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Manish Swarup
Canada’s Olympic champion wrestler Erica Wiebe eyes return to competition

Canada’s Olympic champion wrestler Erica Wiebe eyes return to competition

Most Read