Saturday, 29 January 2011

Rosters Are Set

There was some pretty good buzz about the team selection in the old schoolyard known as the NHL. The 2011 NHL All-Star Game Fantasy Draft, presented by Cisco because you can't undersell yourself, was held, and Team Staal and Team Lidstrom began to assemble as the two captains and their alternate captains went back and forth picking teammates. There were many big questions - who would go first, who would be selected last, would there be teammate versus teammate situations, will the Sedins be broken up for the first time in their careers - and each one would have an answer at the conclusion of the Fantasy Draft. So without further adieu, let's look at the rosters for both Team Staal and Team Lidstrom.

Team Staal

Team Staal, led by captain Eric Staal and alternate captains Ryan Kesler and Mike Green, were given the right to draft first in the Fantasy Draft. With names like Ovechkin, Nash, Toews, and Stamkos available, Eric Staal had a number of superstars to choose. With the first overall pick, Team Staal chose... Cam Ward? Alright, I get it - a little nepotism here as the Carolina Hurricanes superstar chose the Carolina Hurricanes goaltender for the hometown fans. No complaints there, I suppose.

Team Staal continued the nepotism theme as alternate captain Mike Green chose teammate Alexander Ovechkin with the third pick. And Ryan Kesler got in on the action as he chose teammate Daniel Sedin with the fifth pick of the draft. It appeared Team Staal was all about teammates early on, but the seventh pick was one made purely on talent. Zdeno Chara was added to Team Staal, and the ninth pick was another smart one as they added Rick Nash to the team.

Teammates and family played a role in the next two picks as goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was chosen with the 11th pick. Following him was another New York Ranger as Eric Staal chose brother Marc Staal with the 13th pick. Patrick Sharp, Dan Boyle, and Carey Price were selected next by Team Staal before Eric went back to the Hurricanes' roster by selecting teammate Jeff Skinner with the 21st pick in the draft.

Team Staal rounded out their roster with Kris Letang, Claude Giroux, Erik Karlsson, Corey Perry, Patrik Elias, David Backes, and Paul Stastny. If you're keeping tabs on repeat player numbers, Team Staal should have two instances of #10 (Sharp and Perry), two instances of #22 (Sedin and Boyle), and two instances of #30 (Ward and Lundqvist).

Team Lidstrom

Niklas Lidstrom was joined on stage with his alternate captains Patrick Kane and Martin St. Louis as they had the second overall pick in the NHL Fantasy Draft. With Cam Ward already off the board, that left a myriad of NHL superstars to choose from, and Lidstrom jumped at one of the league's best goal scorers in choosing Steven Stamkos with his first pick.

Lidstrom, like Team Staal, decided to use a little nepotism as alternate captain Patrick Kane chose defenceman Duncan Keith with Team Lidstrom's second pick. Martin St. Louis threw a little controversy into the 2011 NHL All-Star Game with his selection of Henrik Sedin at the sixth overall pick. That, of course, means that the Sedins will be playing against one another tomorrow afternoon.

From there, it was all about talent on Team Lidstrom. Shea Weber, Tim Thomas, and Daniel Briere were chosen with the next three picks before Patrick Kane had some say on the 14th and 16th overall picks. Team Lidstrom selected former Blackhawk and current high-scoring Thrashers defenceman Dustin Byfuglien at 14, and then added Blackhawk Jonathan Toews at 16. Team Lidstrom rounded out their goaltenders with the next two picks as Marc-Andre Fleury and Jonas Hiller were selected.

Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos got to bring back one of the Lightning alumni with the 22nd overall pick as Brad Richards joined Team Lidstrom. Keith Yandle and Brent Burns rounded out Team Lidstrom's blueline with the next two picks. Burns' teammate and Kane's former teammate Martin Havlat was chosen at 28th overall, and he was followed by Anze Kopitar, Matt Duchene, and Richards' Dallas Stars teammate Loui Eriksson. So who was the last man chosen?

Phil Kessel of the Toronto Maple Leafs. For his wait, Kessel received a Honda CR-Z car and $20,000 to donate to a charity of his choice - not too bad for being the last man chosen. Kessel stated that he will donate the money to a cancer charity after having beaten testicular cancer in 2006. As for being chosen last, what did Kessel think of that honour?

"I don't care one bit at all," said Kessel of being chosen last to The Canadian Press. "When I was a kid, I would never have dreamed of being here. Hopefully the fans in Toronto are happy to see me in the game. I'll play well in the game for them."

If you're keeping track of those players with repeat numbers, Team Lidstrom will have two sets of numbers that will appear twice: #91 (Stamkos and Richards) and #33 (Sedin and Byfuglien).

Just as an added note, Jeff Skinner will officially become the youngest player in any of the four major sports to appear in an all-star game. Skinner is 18 years, 259 days. He officially knocks off Steve Yzerman's 1984 All-Star Game debut by eight days under the current format of the All-Star Game. When the NHL Stanley Cup champions earned the right to play the NHL All-Stars, there are two players who would be younger than Skinner: Toronto's Fleming Mackell in 1947 (18 years, 166 days) and Detroit's Larry Hillman in 1955 (18 years, 239 days).

Teammates that will face one another include Daniel Sedin and Ryan Kesler against Henrik Sedin; Zdeno Chara against Tim Thomas; Kris Letang against Marc-Andre Fleury; Claude Giroux against Daniel Briere; Corey Perry against Jonas Hiller; and, Patrick Sharp against Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, and Jonathan Toews.

The NHL Skills Competition gets underway later today, so get ready for some fun and excitement as your 2011 NHL All-Stars show off their stuff!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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