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All-Star Game

2020 NHL All-Star Game features nine young first-time players

Marner, Duclair, Tkachuk brothers among group 24 or younger

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

ST. LOUIS -- Mitchell Marner used to sit on the couch with his family, his parents Paul and Bonnie, every year to watch the NHL All-Star Game.

The weekend, including the annual skills competitions, was among his favorite things in hockey as a kid. His favorite memory was watching Dany Heatley score a hat trick in the 2003 All-Star Game.

It made getting to this 2020 Honda NHL All-Star Game a goal of Marner's, a dream even.

 

[RELATED: Complete 2020 NHL All-Star Game coverage]

 

"For me it was," the 22-year-old Toronto Maple Leafs forward said. "It was a bucket-list thing. Hopefully this one is my first of many."

Video: Hersch catches up with Marner on the red carpet

Marner is one of the nine players 24 years old or younger who will play in an NHL All-Star Game for the first time at Enterprise Center on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).

The Metropolitan Division will play the Atlantic Division in the first 3-on-3 semifinal, followed by the Central Division playing the Pacific Division. The winners will then play for a $1 million prize.

For the young first-timers -- Marner, New Jersey Devils forward Nico Hischier (21 years old), Detroit Red Wings forward Tyler Bertuzzi (24), Ottawa Senators forwards Anthony Duclair (24) and Brady Tkachuk (20), Philadelphia Flyers forward Travis Konecny (22), Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry (24), Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk (22) and Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes (20) -- it is another NHL experience they've longed for.

"Oh yeah, dream come true," Hischier said.

The center lists Zdeno Chara's record-setting hardest shot of 108.8 mph at the 2012 All-Star Weekend as his favorite memory. He was 13 years old and living in Switzerland.

"Being part of it now, you'll never forget it," Hischier said.

The nine are joined by eight peers in their age group who are back for a second, third or fourth All-Star Game, including Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews, who isn't playing because of a wrist condition.

Add it up and you get 17 of the 41 players at 24 or younger, including nine who are 22 or younger.

Video: Duclair on his first All-Star Game appearance

There were 11 players 24 or younger in the 2009 NHL All-Star Game, when Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane, now 31, was a first-timer. Four of them were 22 or younger.

"There's a lot of guys in their early 20s or late teens now that seem to have the confidence to come in and make a difference, and you're seeing a lot of stars here like that," Matthew Tkachuk said. "I mean, one just walked by, [Elias] Pettersson. He's a stud. Quinn Hughes is a stud. A lot of guys that are coming in their first few years and just taking the League by storm. It's impressive."

The veteran players said they are most impressed with the confidence younger players are carrying into the NHL.

It shows up in how they dress and act, their style on the ice, and especially their willingness to try skillful plays like lacrosse-style goals that many older players claim would not have been acceptable when they were coming into the League eight, 10, 12 or more years ago.

The only 70-point scorers in the NHL this season are 24 or younger: Edmonton Oilers forwards Connor McDavid (23 years old; 76 points) and Leon Draisaitl (24; 75); Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon (24; 72); and Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak (23; 70).

"They're swaggy, all of them," Dallas Stars forward Tyler Seguin said.

Seguin, who turns 28 on Jan. 31, has been in the NHL since 2010 and is considered an older player now.

"I felt confident and swaggy too, but now it's just different," he said. "It's changed. That's where our game has gone, and I think it's just great. It's great. I think it needs to be. You look around at other leagues, the swag that other leagues have with the players they have. It makes their sport great and ours is definitely getting there."

Seguin, an NHL all-star for the sixth time, said the players coming into the League also have a way of pushing the veterans in different ways then when he arrived a decade ago.

"They've had social media as their weapon growing up," Seguin said. "They've seen training regimens, learning about keto diets and vegans and all this stuff. Back in the day, when you worked out as hard as you did, you were ahead of everybody, and now when you work out as hard as you can you're just keeping up. It's about finding what separates you, and the young players make you push."

Kane used the Tkachuk brothers as an example.

"You can tell they're confident kids and I think that's what makes them good players in the first place," he said. "We have a kid in Chicago, Kirby Dach (19 years old), who is a really confident kid, but you don't want to take it away from him because that's one of the reasons why he's a good player. He's confident and he feels like he can make plays and hang on to the puck.

"The younger talent has kind of taken over the NHL, and that's fun to watch."

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