TORONTO – Vancouver’s super Sedin twins are both headed to the NHL all-star game. Will they play on the same team?
That won’t be decided until a couple days before the Jan. 30 game at RBC Center in Raleigh, N.C., where a format change will see two captains select the squads in a live draft.
Daniel and Henrik Sedin have played together virtually their entire lives—in minor hockey, with hometown Modo in the Swedish Elite League and finally with the Canucks. Depending on how the draft plays out at the all-star game, they may finally be split up.
“That one is going to be interesting,” NHL executive Brendan Shanahan said Tuesday in an interview. “There are a lot of questions with this format that people are curious to see answered.”
The league’s hockey operations department selected the final 36 players for the game and included the top three forwards from the league-leading Canucks—Ryan Kesler along with the Sedin twins.
Representation from the other Canadian teams comes from goalie Carey Price (Montreal), defenceman Erik Karlsson (Ottawa) and forwards Jarome Iginla (Calgary), Phil Kessel (Toronto) and Ales Hemsky (Edmonton).
Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle of the Oilers were among the 12 rookies who were asked to participate solely in the skills competition.
The most highly anticipated aspect of the weekend is the player fantasy draft, which Shanahan introduced in an effort to add some spice to the event.
“I think everybody’s really curious to see how it goes,” he said. “The players that I’ve spoken to, whether they’ll be in it or sitting in a tiki hut down in the Caribbean, they’re all sort of interested to watch the players play general manager.”
The all-stars themselves vote to determine which six players (two forwards and one defenceman per team) serve as captains and alternates. Each team will be named after its captain and every player gets to wear his own number even if there are duplicates.
The only rules governing the 18-round draft is that all goalies must be selected by each team’s 10th pick while all defencemen have to be off the board by the 15th selections—guaranteeing a forward gets taken last.
The Sedins and Kesler aren’t the only ones who are likely to get separated. Four Pittsburgh Penguins were voted by fans to start the game—forwards Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, defenceman Kris Letang and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury—and they’ll be joined by four members of the Chicago Blackhawks (defenceman Duncan Keith and forwards Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp).
In fact, the Blackhawks are hoping to get split up.
“I’ll tell you one guy who won’t be getting my vote (for captain) is Jonathan Toews, that’s for sure,” Kane told reporters in Chicago. “It will be nice to play against him for once and go up head-to-head.”
Tampa Bay forwards Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis—Nos. 2 and 5 in league scoring entering play Tuesday—were both added along with dynamic Dallas Stars linemates Brad Richards and Loui Eriksson and the Atlanta Thrashers defence pairing of Dustin Byfuglien and Tobias Enstrom.
Two Washington Capitals (captain Alex Ovechkin and defenceman Mike Green) and two New York Rangers (defenceman Marc Staal and goaltender Henrik Lundqvist) were also invited.
The host Carolina Hurricanes will be represented by three players—captain Eric Staal, goalie Cam Ward and rookie forward Jeff Skinner, who will take part in the skills competition.
“Obviously, you want to be recognized among the elite of the league,” Eric Staal told reporters in Raleigh. “For me to be a part of that this year is an incredible honour, especially being in our home building and in front of our fans. I’m going to enjoy the experience.”
Detroit Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg is the only player from the top 15 in league scoring who was omitted. The Red Wings will instead be represented by veteran defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom, who was suspended along with teammate Pavel Datsyuk after skipping the 2009 all-star game in Montreal.
Without getting into specifics, Shanahan noted that some GMs asked that their players not be includedin this year’s game because they hope to use the time off to heal some minor injuries.
“There are certain markets and certain players that just feel it’s a year in which they have to pass,” said Shanahan.
There was no way the NHL was going to pass on the Canucks with the season they’re having—although an argument could be made that goaltender Roberto Luongo deserves to join his teammates for the all-star experience.
The Sedins are both on pace for over 100 points while Kesler is on target to surpass 40 goals for the first time in his career.
It’s the first time the 26-year-old American has been recognized with an invitation to the game.
“I don’t know how many people would be surprised by (Kesler’s) selection because we’re certainly not,” Canucks associate coach Rick Bowness told reporters in Uniondale, N.Y. “All those who have followed the team closely for the last couple of years have seen the constant improvement in his overall play. Now he’s getting more offensive numbers and he’s still one of the best penalty killers and most reliable defensive centres in the league. …
“It’s a very well-deserved honour but again, we’re honestly not that surprised. We’d be a lot more surprised if he wasn’t selected.”