RALEIGH, N.C. -- Phil Kessel
had no problem with being the last man standing at the end of the NHL's all-star draft.
The Toronto Maple Leafs forward was actually feeling pretty good after finding out he'd won a hybrid Honda CR-Z and US$20,000 for being the last of 42 all-stars to be selected on Friday night. Kessel was diagnosed with testicular cancer in December 2006 and planned to donate his money to a cancer charity.
``Something good (comes out of it),'' Kessel said of being picked last. ``Obviously, $20,000 to charity, that's unbelievable. I'm real excited about that.''
He was just a 19-year-old rookie with the Boston Bruins when the cancer diagnosis came in. Kessel had to undergo surgery and ended up missing about a month.
``My first year in the league I had cancer,'' said Kessel. ``I got through it pretty easily and I'm healthy now. Obviously, (it was) a tough time in my life but it made me stronger.''
He is the lone representative of the Maple Leafs at the all-star game.
The draft came down to Kessel and Colorado Avalanche forward Paul Stastny, and captain Eric Staal elected to go with Stastny because he ``doesn't play in a big hockey market.'' That left Kessel to captain Nicklas Lidstrom.
Instantly, Kessel's phone exploded with text messages from teammates.
``They were all just asking about the car,'' said Kessel. ``They're all on trips and stuff. I was supposed to go with a bunch of guys on vacation. They just gave me little bombs.
``They were all happy for me. We've got a great team in Toronto, the guy's are all supportive and we get along great there.''
Lidstrom expects Kessel to have a little more motivation for Sunday's all-star game. In fact, he considers Kessel a favourite to claim the MVP honours.
``He could very well win the car on Sunday,'' said Lidstrom.
Former Bruins teammate Zdeno Chara thought Kessel handled it well.
``Getting a car - not a bad deal,'' he said. ``It's part of the business. Someone has to be first, someone has to be last.''
Kessel seemed to take the extra attention in stride, saying he never would have dreamed as a kid that he'd be invited to the NHL's all-star game.
He's on pace for a third consecutive 30-goal season and plans to enjoy his time in Raleigh as much as possible.
``Honestly, it doesn't matter,'' said Kessel. ``It's an all-star game, right? You're just happy to be here - it means you're doing pretty well.''
As for his plans for the new car?
``I'll drive it,'' said Kessel.