We have updated our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. By continuing to use the NHL’s online services, you agree to these updated documents and to the arbitration of disputes.
Welcome |Account|Sign Out 
NEW! SIGN IN WITH YOUR SOCIAL PROFILE
OR
Username or EmailPassword

NHL YoungStars; A tradition is born

Thursday, 01.15.2009 / 10:00 AM / 2009 NHL All-Star Game

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

For proof, the 20 YoungStars need to stick around for the main event.

Thirteen of the 42 players selected to play in this year's NHL All-Star Game on Jan. 25 at the Bell Centre in Montreal were once in their shoes, getting their first taste of the League's big weekend in the YoungStars Game.

A total of 17 former players who suited up in the YoungStars Game, including six from the 2007 show in Dallas, have graduated to the main event. Judging by the bumper crop of talent in this year's NHL YoungStars Game presented by Upper Deck, the number should grow in the coming years.

"It certainly helps to be recognized and honored," Rangers center Brandon Dubinsky told NHL.com. "It makes you feel good about yourself."

Dubinsky is one of five players scheduled to participate this year who also played as rookies last year. His Rangers' teammate, Marc Staal, is on that list along with Boston bruiser Milan Lucic, Washington playmaker Nicklas Backstrom and Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang.

Chicago's Patrick Kane played with the YoungStars in Atlanta and scored two goals, but he has already made his ascension to Sunday night thanks to the 917,551 votes he received in the XM/NHL All-Star Fan Balloting presented by 2K Sports.

Kane was the West's leading vote getter.

"It's a fun experience," Kane said of the YoungStars Game. "You sit in the locker room with the best players in the world. I had a great time last year."

Due to a format change for this year's event, Dubinsky, Backstrom, Staal, Letang and Lucic will be the first players to ever play in two YoungStars Games.

This is the first time the YoungStars Game will feature rookies vs. sophomores. There will be nine skaters and a goalie on each side and they will play a non-stop, wide open game of 3-on-3 during the Honda/NHL SuperSkills Competition on Jan. 24.

Plenty of speed and skill should be on display.

Joining the five returnees on the sophomores squad will be forwards Andrew Cogliano (Edmonton), Bryan Little (Atlanta), Mason Raymond (Vancouver) and Devin Setoguchi (San Jose). Los Angeles goalie Erik Ersberg is the backstop.

Backstrom led the sophomore squad with 45 points heading into Wednesday's games. Setoguchi netted his 20th goal Tuesday night and Little had 19. Lucic is third in the NHL with 154 hits and Staal had a Rangers' best plus-7 rating.

The rookies' roster includes four of the top eight picks from the 2008 Entry Draft.

Top pick Steven Stamkos (Tampa Bay) will be re-united with former Canadian National Junior team teammates Drew Doughty (No. 2, Los Angeles) and Luke Schenn (No. 5, Toronto). Danish forward Mikkel Boedker (Phoenix) was the eighth pick in Ottawa.

Doughty has been the most consistent of the quartet. He leads all Kings' players in ice time with 23:42 per game and has 12 points, but he left Monday's game against Tampa Bay with a thigh contusion. He's listed as day-to-day.

Schenn, who recently returned from an injury that cost him 12 games, has been Toronto's best stay-at-home defensemen. Boedker is blossoming as a two-way forward in Phoenix, while Stamkos is going through some growing pains in Tampa.

Joining the teenage quartet of rookies will be forwards Patrik Berglund (St. Louis), Michael Frolik (Florida), James Neal (Dallas), Kris Versteeg (Chicago) and Blake Wheeler (Boston). Columbus' sensational goalie Steve Mason will be in net.

Versteeg led all rookies with 33 points before Chicago played Wednesday. Wheeler has 28 and Berglund 27. Frolik has 19 points and Neal 18, but his 13 goals tied him with Versteeg, Berglund and Wheeler for most among the 2008-09 rookie class.

"I think it's great for the NHL to know there are all of these young guys coming up," Doughty told NHL.com.

Who among them will be the next to graduate to the main event in NHL All-Star Weekend remains to be seen, but the race officially begins in Montreal.

"This is pretty cool," Versteeg said. "I'm excited to get out there and see what it's all about."

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com