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All-Star Fantasy Draft pres. by DraftKings set for tonight

by Brian McCormack / Columbus Blue Jackets

Upon hearing that he had been named a captain in the 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Game, Blue Jackets forward Nick Foligno insisted he had no idea who he would select first in the All-Star Fantasy Draft presented by DraftKings, airing tonight at 8 p.m. on NBCSN. He said he hadn’t even given it much thought at that point.

Certainly, he has a plan together now.

Foligno and opposing captain Jonathan Toews will stand at the podium at the Greater Columbus Convention Center tonight for the All-Star Fantasy Draft and select this year’s teams. With the All-Stars selected this year by the fans and the NHL, Foligno and Toews will go round-for-round putting together the best squad possible to compete in both the 2015 Honda NHL Skills Competition on Saturday night and Sunday’s main event.

At the outset of the draft, a puck will be flipped to determine which captain will have the first selection. Each team will be comprised of three goaltenders, six defensemen, and 12 forwards. By the end of Round 10, each captain will have picked his three goaltenders. At the end of Round 15, each team will have picked its six defensemen.

The requirements for drafting are meant to prevent the final draft picks from being a predetermined based on positional needs. With a similar strategy to prevent the rookies from hanging around until late in the draft, the league will split the six young stars into two groups. The captains will flip another puck at the end of the 11th round, with the winner selecting his rookie group.

At the outset of the Draft, six players will already be off the board. Naturally, Foligno and Toews already know which teams they’ll play on, and each has been assigned two assistant captains. The Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane and the Kings’ Drew Doughty will each assist Foligno, while Toews will work with Ducks’ captain Ryan Getzlaf and former Blue Jacket and current Rangers forward Rick Nash.

Of the 36 remaining players, there is plenty of talent to go around. Aside from the six already mentioned, all of whom were first-round draft picks, the remaining draft field features 24 former first round picks. In the entire field of 42 All-Stars, 17 players were top-five draft picks and seven were taken first overall.

The All-Star game also features a few steals, proof that if Foligno and Toews have really been doing their homework, they might be able to find a hidden gem even in a field packed with superstars. Canucks scorer Radim Vrbata was a seventh-round pick in 1999, and Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien was an eighth-rounder in 2003. Two goaltenders in the field, the Islanders’ Jaroslav Halak and the Blues’ Brian Elliot, lasted into the ninth round of the same draft in 2003. None of these players will need to wait that long on Friday night.

One of the Draft’s best storylines to watch for may indeed be the evenings of a few players experiencing their first NHL Draft ever. Tyler Johnson of the Lightning and Mark Giordano of the Flames were both undrafted free agents at the start of their NHL careers, defying the odds not only to become full-time NHL players but more so to be named among the best in the game.

Giordano leads all NHL defenseman in scoring and is a leader in the Norris Trophy conversation at the midway point of the season, and Johnson ranks eighth in league scoring and has become a leader on a power-house team in Tampa Bay.

What match-ups will develop from tonight’s draft that will carry the weekend? Teammates Kane and Toews have already been pitted against one another, but will Captain Foligno choose line mate and fellow first-time All-Star Ryan Johansen to ride shotgun at Nationwide Arena in a different jersey? Will Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, one of the best defense pairs in the game, find themselves forced to shut down each other? Filip Forsberg was promoted from the rookie group to the All-Star group after Sidney Crosby withdrew with an injury. When will the breakout youngster be drafted?

And of course, as interested as every fan will be in who is picked first, there will be equal interest in who is the last player left on the board. In 2011 it was Phil Kessel, and in 2012 it was Logan Couture.

Whoever the last name called is tonight, they will be in pretty good company.

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