The brightest stars in the American Hockey League will be at Utica Memorial Auditorium for the 2015 AHL All-Star Classic presented by Turning Stone Resort Casino.
Some of the best young players in professional hockey, representing all 30 National Hockey League organizations, will play in an East vs. West format. The 46 players heading to Utica include 18 first- and second-round NHL draft picks; 36 of this year's All-Stars already have NHL experience, including 14 who have skated in an NHL game in 2014-15.
Among them are:
Alex Khokhlachev, C, Providence Bruins (Boston Bruins) -- The 21-year-old Moscow native made his NHL debut with the Bruins last season and has skated in three NHL games this season. He's also starred for Providence; in 34 games he leads all Providence skaters in points (28) and assists (19), and is tied for the team lead in power-play goals (three).
Khokhlachev made his North American professional debut with Providence during the 2012-13 season, skating in 11 AHL games after splitting the first half of the season between Moscow Spartak in the Kontinental Hockey League and the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League. His nine goals in 12 games during the 2014 Calder Cup Playoffs tied for the most goals in a single postseason in Providence history.
Vladislav Namestnikov, C, Syracuse Crunch (Tampa Bay Lightning) --
Center - TBL
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 4 | PTS: 7
SOG: 29 | +/-: 3
Namestnikov was selected by the Lightning with the 27th pick of the 2011 NHL Draft. After putting up 139 points in 131 OHL games with the London Knights, Namestnikov 21 points in 44 AHL games as a rookie in 2012-13. The following season he had 48 points in 56 games and earned a call-up to the Lightning.
This season the 22-year-old has three goals and seven points in 25 NHL games; he had his first NHL goal and NHL assist against the Montreal Canadiens on Oct. 13. Touted as a playmaker, Namestnikov's growing two-way game makes him an integral piece to the Lightning's future and a core part of the development structure in Syracuse.
Derrick Pouliot, D, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (Pittsburgh Penguins) -- Pouliot's defensive prowess has fit perfectly with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton coach John Hynes' defense-first style of play. Drafted No. 8 by Pittsburgh in 2012, Pouliot tops Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in points (21) and assists (14). The 21-year-old first-year pro also leads the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton defensemen with seven goals.
An injury kept him sidelined for months during the offseason, but Pouliot hasn't missed a step this season. He's almost a point-per-game player in the AHL, and has one goal and two assists in eight NHL games; he scored his first NHL goal on his first shot in his NHL debut Dec. 20 against the Florida Panthers.
Matt Dumba, D, Iowa Wild (Minnesota Wild) -- Drafted by the Wild one spot ahead of Pouliot at No. 7, Dumba is in his first full professional season after a decorated junior career.
The 20-year-old began the season in Minnesota and has two goals and three assists in 23 NHL games. He has skated with Iowa since being reassigned Nov. 29. In 18 AHL games Dumba has 12 points, second among Iowa rookies.
A number of top NHL prospects dot the roster for the American Hockey League All-Star Classic, including Teemu Pulkkinen of the Grand Rapids Griffins. (Photo: Mark Newman)
Teemu Pulkkinen, LW, Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit Red Wings) -- Beginning his professional career in his native Finland at 17, Pulkkinen is a prime example of the successful model that Detroit drafting embodies. Taken in the fourth round (No. 111) in the 2010 draft, Pulkkinen made his North American professional debut with Grand Rapids late in the 2012-13 season, and had three goals and two assists in 14 postseason games to help the Griffins win the Calder Cup.
Last season he had 59 points in 71 AHL games and got into three late-season NHL games. This season the 23-year-old leads the Griffins in points (39), goals (20) and assists (19). That strong play earned him another trip to Detroit; he's played in six games and scored his first NHL goal Jan. 20 against the Wild.
Ty Rattie, RW, Chicago Wolves (St. Louis Blues) -- A prolific scorer during his junior career with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League, Rattie was a second-round pick (No. 32) at the 2011 draft. The 21-year-old has continued his scoring prowess in the AHL.
He had 31 goals and 48 points in 72 games as a rookie last season and earned a call-up to the NHL; this season his 17 goals are tied for fourth in the AHL and he's second on the Wolves with 27 points.
The 2015 AHL All-Star Classic will be broadcast live to over 100 million homes; check the extensive broadcast schedule available at theahl.com for the network in your area. Be part of the conversation online also with #AHLAllStar, as all Facebook posts, Instagram photos, and Tweets including that hashtag have a chance to be included in a fan gallery hosted on theahl.com.