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NHL YoungStars an inquisitive bunch

by Larry Wigge
MONTREAL -- Stop a fan on the street and he'd have a million questions he'd like to ask of his favorite athletes. It's no different with the NHL YoungStars of the game today as they get to rub shoulders with some of hockey's elite
for the first time during All-Star Weekend.

A sampling of YoungStars in Montreal for the All-Star Game Sunday showed that they would love to pick the brain of Alex Ovechkin, Scott Niedermayer, Jarome Iginla and Mike Modano, hoping to figure out what makes those great stars tick.

It's no coincidence that Ovechkin, the reigning NHL Most Valuable Player, the heartthrob of fans who love to see him shoot the puck and then celebrate afterward or line up an opponent with the intensity of a man built like an NFL linebacker.

"How does he dream up all of those crazy moves?" Florida's Michael Frolik wondered. "When you think you've seen them all he keeps coming up with new ones. I'd love to be him for just one day."

"What I'd want to ask Ovechkin is how does he do it? How does he score almost every game?" Chicago winger Kris Versteeg wondered. "What does he drink before each game? I wonder if he belts down a few Red Bulls. Whatever it is, he should bottle the secret."

Toronto defenseman Luke Schenn got into the AO lovefest, wondering, "I'd like to know how you score one goal never mind 50 or 60 like he gets?"

"I'd love to know how he shoots the puck so hard ... and with that same velocity wherever he's shooting," Atlanta's Bryan Little asked.

"I'd like to ask Ovechkin where he gets the energy to do the things he does with the demanding schedule we have?" Edmonton Andrew Cogliano said. "He must have a recharger at his disposal when he goes to bed every night. Otherwise, it's just mind-boggling how he makes those moves and scores those goals he scores almost every game."

"I'm still trying to figure out this game," said Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos, the NHL's No. 1 pick in the draft last June. "I'd love to know how he so much passion to the game, so much focus, so much life. It's unbelievable."

Stamkos added that there's no way you could not also wonder, "I see guys who have great vision and a great ability to pass the puck. With Sid (Crosby), he gets straight A's in both categories. That's a skill set I'd love to ask him about."

Little seconded the Crosby nomination. "Hey," he said, "I played against him in juniors. We're both the same age and yet look at what he's accomplished already. I'd love to ask him, 'How does he stay so focused with all the attention he gets on the ice, plus the attention he has to deal with from the media?' It can be draining to just play the game, but he's almost got another life he has to lead with all the questions you reporters have for him. That has to be difficult to handle at times."

Alas, the questions for Crosby will have to wait as an injury will keep him away from Montreal this weekend.

Vancouver's Mason Raymond considers himself a late bloomer. He too wonders about the way players like Crosby and Iginla handle all the attention.

"Jarome's the perfect team player," Raymond said. "I'd wonder, 'Where does he get all of that passion and grit to stand up for his teammates at one end of the rink and then show off those great power forward skills he has at the other?' "

On defense? Los Angeles' Drew Doughty would love to ask, "How does Scott Niedermayer make everything so easy? Every other defenseman sees how he can quarterback the offense with his speed and still get back to break up plays that would be odd-man rushes against any other defenseman in the league."

New York Rangers defenseman Marc Staal said he's talked to his brother Eric about wining a Stanley Cup and Jordan about how difficult it was to get to the Final a year ago. "I wouldn't want to put them down, but I grew up watching Scott Niedermayer help the Devils win Stanley Cups and then he goes to Anaheim and the Ducks win another. There's got to be an intangible he could teach all aspiring defensemen."

Brandon Dubinsky, Staal's teammate, picks Modano for his questions.


"Big, strong, great speed and a will to win," Dubinsky said. "That's how I look at Mike Modano. But what I'd really want to know is, 'How he can be such an All-American guy?' Being an American, I can look up to him -- and I'd wonder how I can get other players to look up to me the same way?"

"I'm spoiled," Dallas winger James Neal said. "I get to play with Mike Modano every day. I grew up idolizing Gary Roberts. But how can you not want to pick Mike Modano's brains about being the face of the Stars and the face of USA Hockey?"

Boston's Blake Wheeler had a hard time thinking of a burning question he'd love to ask one of the All-Stars this weekend, until I threw out the names that had been mentioned. He shook his head in the affirmative at the names of Ovechkin, Crosby and Iginla. When he heard Modano's name, there was an animated look on Wheeler's face and he said, "I was only 7-years-old when the North Stars moved from Minnesota, but growing up there he was my hero. Big center. Big hero. I'd want to ask him, 'What's it like to be a top pick and play at such a high level for the same team for such a long time.' "

I'd say inquisitive minds want to know more about our favorite players ... and why not?

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