TORONTO – Don’t expect Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel to be selected last at this season’s NHL all-star game fantasy draft.
Kessel, who leads the league with 16 goals and 31 points this season, has taken the overall lead in fan balloting for the Jan. 29 showcase game at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa.
His total of 258,446 votes moved him past Senators defenceman Erik Karlsson, who leads all blue-liners with 256,839 votes in results released Tuesday by the NHL. Ottawa forward Daniel Alfredsson was third overall (233,868) and teammate Jason Spezza was fifth overall (209,455).
The NHL held its first-ever player draft at last season’s all-star game in Raleigh. Teams were decided through a fantasy draft and Kessel was selected with the 36th and final pick.
Kessel’s teammate Dion Phaneuf was second among blue-liners with 213,617 votes and linemate Joffrey Lupul was sixth among forwards (166,787).
Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby rose from 19th to sixth overall with 206,863 votes after his stellar return to the lineup after missing over 10 months due to a concussion. Crosby recorded nine points over his first four games.
Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins leads all goaltenders with 175,315 votes, nearly 5,600 more than Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury. Injured Toronto goaltender James Reimer is third among netminders (161,405).
Voting wraps up Jan. 4. Fan votes will determine six starters for the game.