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Boeser emerges with Canucks to earn All-Star Game selection

Forward will be sole rookie to participate in annual event

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- The lone rookie selected to play in the 2018 Honda NHL All-Star Game at Amalie Arena in Tampa on Jan. 28 (3:30 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVA Sports), Vancouver Canucks forward Brock Boeser anticipates he'll be a little nervous rubbing elbows with the biggest names in the sport as the Canucks' representative on the Pacific Division team.

"I'd pretty quiet around those types of guys," Boeser said.

Judging by how quickly Boeser has adjusted to the NHL, he shouldn't have a problem fitting in during 2018 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend, which includes the NHL All-Star Skills Competition on Jan. 27 (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVA Sports). He's demonstrated that ability since signing with the Canucks, who selected him with the No. 23 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, on March 25, 2017 following the completion of his sophomore season at the University of North Dakota.

 

[RELATED: Boeser midseason favorite for Calder Trophy | Complete All-Star Game rosters]

 

The 20-year-old Burnsville, Minnesota native scored a goal in his NHL debut against the Minnesota Wild that day and had five points (four goals, one assist) in nine games at the end of last season. This season, he's first among rookies with 22 goals and 40 points in 40 games.

The only players in the League with more goals are Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov (27), Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin (27), New York Islanders forward Anders Lee (25) and Philadelphia Flyers center Sean Couturier (24).

"He showed last year that he's prepared," Canucks center Henrik Sedin said. "He's a guy that never changes. It doesn't matter who he plays with or if it's the first period or third period, or if it's a tied game or we're up by three or down by three. He plays the same way and that's really impressive."

Boeser follows in the footsteps of Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews and Winnipeg Jets forward Patrik Laine, who played in the All-Star Game in Los Angeles as rookies last season, and Detroit Red Wings center Dylan Larkin and Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson, who played in the 2016 game in Nashville as rookies.

Video: MTL@VAN: Boeser cashes in on the power play

Although Boeser said it was an honor to be picked for the All-Star Game, he has mixed emotions about such individual accomplishments because of the Canucks' recent struggles. They've lost five games in a row (0-4-1) and are 2-11-2 in their past 15 to fall to 14th place in the 15-team Western Conference with 38 points (16-21-6).

"It's all on a personal note," Boeser said of his success. "Team-wise, lately we haven't been playing our best hockey, and we know that. Obviously, I like to produce and help the team any way I can. I'd like to do that [so] we can get more points and wins. It's been good, though. My linemates have really helped me out a lot and there's a lot of guys that have really kind of gotten me on the right path this year."

Recently, Boeser has skated on the Canucks second line with Thomas Vanek and Sam Gagner, but also has played on the top line with Henrik and Daniel Sedin.

Henrik Sedin, who has played in the All-Star Game three times in his 16-season NHL career, suggested that Boeser take in all he can from his All-Star Game experience because it can help him down the road.

"Just try to have fun," Sedin said. "He deserved it, so it's going to be good for him."

Ovechkin, who was voted into the All-Star Game by fans as the Metropolitan Division captain, offered similar advice. There was no All-Star Game when Ovechkin was a rookie in 2005-06 because of the 2006 Turin Olympics, so he made his All-Star Game debut in Dallas in 2007 when he was 21.

That was the first of nine times he was selected for the All-Star Game.

"It was a great experience," Ovechkin said. "Obviously, it's a huge memory. If you have a chance to go you have to enjoy it."

Video: Taking a look at first-time All-Star selections

Although they play in different conferences, Ovechkin has taken note of Boeser's strong start to his NHL career. He's played against him twice this season. Boeser had three assists in the Canucks' 6-2 win against the Capitals on Oct. 26 in Vancouver, but was held off the scoresheet in Washington's 3-1 win at Capital One Arena on Tuesday.

"Obviously, a great shooter, great talent," Ovechkin said. "He has to just keep working."

Ovechkin, 32, was one of the players Boeser followed closely when he was young. It seems to be no coincidence that there are some similarities in their games, particularly in the way they shoot the puck. Both are right-handed with lightning quick releases.

On the power play, Boeser often is set up for the one-timer from the left circle, a spot where Ovechkin has made his living for 13 NHL seasons.

"I loved him growing up," Boeser said. "I loved watching him play, and I love to score goals always, so he's a guy I always watched and I always watched his shot. … Just watching him growing up and seeing him score goals in all different ways, it's always honor to play against him."

Boeser will get another chance to play against Ovechkin, but in a more relaxed setting at the All-Star Game. If he's nervous about approaching him or any of the other players to talk, Ovechkin said he shouldn't be.

"Obviously, it's hard because he might be shy, but if you have a chance, why not?" Ovechkin said.

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