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Unveiling the YoungStars

Tuesday, 01.15.2008 / 12:48 PM / 2008 NHL All-Star Game

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

The Blackhawks' Patrick Kane leads all rookies with 31 assists and 40 points. (   Patrick Kane highlight video )
They’re all true rookies. They’re all major contributors to their respective teams. And if they haven’t been doing so already, they now all honestly can call themselves YoungStars in the National Hockey League.

The rosters for the NHL’s annual YoungStars Game were announced Tuesday. The 16 rookies, six of which are teenagers, will play a 12-minute game of 3-on-3 as part of the Dodge/NHL SuperSkills Competition Saturday, Jan. 26 at Philips Arena in Atlanta.

The star power among this group of newbies already is high, despite the fact that only four of them had previous NHL experience, totaling just 40 games before this season, and all four Western Conference forwards are teenagers. Three of them were selected in this past June’s NHL Entry Draft.

Headlining the Western YoungStars roster is Chicago Blackhawks sensation Patrick Kane, the No. 1 pick in the 2007 draft, who leads all rookies with 31 assists and 40 points through 45 games.

Kane again will team up with Edmonton Oilers center Sam Gagner, the sixth overall pick last June, and the youngest player in the League at 18. Gagner, who has 16 points in 43 games this season, and Kane combined for 263 points last season while playing with the London Knights of the OHL.

Phoenix Coyotes left wing Peter Mueller and St. Louis Blues left wing David Perron also were selected for the Western Conference. Perron, who has 18 points through 31 games, was a first-round choice this past June. Mueller, fifth among rookies with 22 points, was the eighth overall selection in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.

St. Louis Blues defenseman Erik Johnson, the oldest of five 19-year-olds in the game -- he’ll turn 20 on March 21 -- will reunite with Mueller and Los Angeles Kings defenseman Jack Johnson.

Both Mueller and Erik Johnson are from Bloomington, Minn., and along with Jack Johnson, a native of Indianapolis, they’re recent graduates of the United States National Team Development Program. The trio and Kane also helped the United States take home the bronze medal at the World Junior Championships last January.

Erik Johnson overcame an early season injury to put together a fine first half. He’s a plus-10 with 16 points, including 13 assists, for the resurgent Blues. Jack Johnson, who played five games with the Kings last season, has played in all 46 games this season.

Rounding out the Western Conference’s defense are Alexander Edler of the Vancouver Canucks and Matt Niskanen of the Dallas Stars. Edler, who played 22 NHL games last season, leads all rookies with a plus-18 rating. Niskanen is second at plus-14.

The hometown fans at Philips Arena will get to root for one of their own during the 12-minute YoungStars Game as Thrashers defenseman Tobias Enstrom leads the Eastern Conference’s defense.

Enstrom, who is third among rookies with 26 points, was drafted in the eighth round, 239th overall, in 2003. He spent the last four seasons in the Swedish Elite League. He’s 23-years-old, but he’s not the oldest player in the game.

The grandpa in this event is Tampa Bay defenseman Mike Lundin, who was born Sept. 24, 1984. Enstrom was born 42 days later, on Nov. 5.

Lundin, who spent the last four seasons at the University of Maine, easily is the most surprising YoungStar. Prior to training camp, Tampa coach John Tortorella never had seen him play. There was talk of him winding up in the ECHL out of training camp, but 45 NHL games later he’s a top-five defenseman for the Lightning.

Marc Staal

Kris Letang of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Marc Staal of the New York Rangers round out the East’s blue line. Staal’s older brother, Eric, is an All-Star reserve for the Eastern Conference. His younger brother, Jordan, was a YoungStar last season.

Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom is the leading scorer among the East’s four forwards. Backstrom, who turned 20 in November, has 31 points, including 23 assists, through 44 games.

Pittsburgh center Tyler Kennedy, Rangers center Brandon Dubinsky and Boston’s bruising left wing Milan Lucic, who, at 19, is the East’s lone teenager, also were selected at forward for the Eastern Conference.

Kennedy has eight goals and four assists through 30 games and Dubinsky has four goals and 10 assists while playing in all of the Rangers’ 46 games. Lucic has shown some offensive flair to his physical game as well with five goals and four assists in 39 games.

The YoungStars will play two six-minute periods of running time. One faceoff will start each period. If the puck leaves the ice, another will get thrown on. If a team scores, the three players have to retreat to their defensive side of center ice before attacking again. For a team to be declared the victor, it will have to win each period.

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com



 

Quote of the Day

When we started our journey we made a commitment to our fans to be relevant and to see the Chicago Blackhawks become the best professional hockey organization. There are not two finer symbols of that than Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. The commitment we have made to these incredible young men is equal to the commitment they have made to our team, our fans, our entire organization and the city of Chicago.

— Chicago Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz on signing Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane to contract extensions