TORONTO -- There was really no question who Toronto Maple Leafs teammates and team captain and assistant captain Auston Matthews and Morgan Rielly would take with their first pick in the Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Player Draft on Thursday.

And it wasn’t going to be Mitchell Marner.

So, with their first pick in the draft, they opted for fellow Maple Leafs teammate William Nylander.

“I think in terms of the pick, the draft order, it was more about making Mitch wait than trying to take Willy first,” Rielly quipped.

When the draft snaked back around to Team Matthews, the two Maple Leafs considered their options, but ultimately opted for self-preservation.

“Get over here,” celebrity captain Justin Bieber said, motioning for Marner to join the band.

That means all four Maple Leafs will play together when they suit up for the 2024 Honda (U.S.)/Rogers (Canada) NHL All-Star Game at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto on Saturday (3 p.m. ET; ABC, ESPN+, SN, CBC, TVAS).

“We were getting threatened by Mitch that if we didn’t take him, he would do something … bad,” Matthews said. “There was a lot of discussion on what we should do with that second pick, but we love Mitchy, so we didn’t want to make him sweat too much and wait it out. So, we had to get him on our team.”

It seems likely that Team Matthews will have a distinct home-ice advantage against Team Hughes in the second game Saturday, with the winners of each semifinal playing each other for a $1 million prize.

“It might be a little nerve-wracking,” Matthews said. “Definitely don’t want to go out there and embarrass yourself. It should be fun. I think it’s going to be competitive, too, which I think is best-case scenario for the fans and for the players as well.”

The quartet of Maple Leafs are the top four scorers on their team, with Nylander leading them with 61 points (23 goals, 38 assists), Matthews with 58 points (40 goals, 18 assists), Marner with 53 points (20 goals, 33 assists) and Rielly with 40 points (seven goals, 33 assists).

“It was cool,” Matthews said. “I think our strategy was pretty simple. We stuck to it. I think it was a cool concept and fun to do the draft-format style again, mix up the teams, divisions, conferences and stuff like that.”

Of course, they didn’t mix it up too much.

In addition to their two teammates, Matthews opted for another good friend in Clayton Keller, taking the Arizona Coyotes forward in the fourth round.

“’Kells’ is an unbelievable player,” Matthews said. “I spend a lot of time with him in the summers. We like to hang out and we’ll skate and train together. In the summer skates, we always try to play together and have pretty good chemistry. I really wanted him to be on the team. He’s really slippery. He’s extremely skilled. He shoots it really well, but he’s also an elite playmaker. He’s having a great season.

“It’s fun to do stuff like this. It’s fun to be with friends in these kind of settings.”


Auston Matthews, TOR
Morgan Rielly, TOR
William Nylander, TOR
Mitch Marner, TOR
Jake Oettinger, DAL
Clayton Keller, ARI
Mathew Barzal, NYI
Igor Shesterkin, NYR
Filip Forsberg, NSH
Alex DeBrincat, DET
Vincent Trocheck, NYR

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