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Top pick in draft puts Blue Jackets together for game

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS -- The fate of Columbus Blue Jackets forward Ryan Johansen was decided when teammate Nick Foligno, captain of Team Foligno, won the puck toss for the first selection of the 2015 NHL All-Star Fantasy Draft presented by DraftKings.

That left no chance for Chicago Blackhawks forward Jonathan Toews, leader of Team Toews, to swoop in and steal Johansen in front of the hometown fans at the Greater Columbus Convention Center on Friday.

True to his words to the media beforehand, Foligno made Johansen the top pick in a reunion of linemates with the Blue Jackets for the 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Game at Nationwide Arena on Sunday (5 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

"[Johansen] had to be my first pick," Foligno said. "He's a guy who's battled with me all year long so I wanted to make sure he was first."

Johansen said Foligno didn't reveal his plans.

"He wouldn't give me any insight on what he was going to do," Johansen said. "I didn't know what was going to happen, but it's pretty cool to be on the same team."

The pairing means there will be no split allegiances for the home-team fans for All-Star Game.

"That's what I was going for," Foligno said. "I'm hoping the crowd is cheering for us all night long. He's a big part why I'm here."

Foligno and alternate captains Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings and Patrick Kane of the Blackhawks went with familiar faces the first three rounds, drafting Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith and Los Angeles forward Anze Kopitar.

"We had a strategy [for] the first few guys, but after that you go with the flow," Kane said.

There apparently was some strategy in round eight when Foligno chose Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien for the hardest-shot competition in the 2015 Honda NHL Skills Competition on Saturday (7 p.m. ET: NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports) to counter Team Toews defenseman Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators.

"I like my team, I really do," Foligno said. "I'm going to sit down tonight and strategize what I'm going to do with the skills and get ready for [Saturday]."

Foligno got to fulfill a dream when he announced the first trade in All-Star draft history by acquiring Toronto Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel for Dallas Stars forward Tyler Seguin.

"I've always wanted to do this: We have a trade to announce," Foligno said.

He also flashed his sense of humor by saying, "It's worked out for both teams in the past."

On Sept. 18, 2009, Kessel was traded by the Boston Bruins to the Toronto Maple Leafs for first-round picks in the 2010 and 2011 NHL Drafts and a second-round pick in 2010. Boston used the No. 2 selection in 2010 to draft Seguin.

"That was all Team Toews coming to me with a trade on the table," Foligno said. "I talked to my assistants and figured we could make it happen. We tried to get a few draft picks in there.

"That trade was not my choice. I was pressured by my assistant captains. It was all in good fun."

The other highlight for Team Foligno was the selection of Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin with its second-to-last pick to deny him a chance to receive a car as the final player chosen. It became a running joke throughout the program how much Ovechkin wanted the 2015 Honda Accord.

"I made him sweat it out. It was great," Foligno said. "He was having more fun with us wanting to be the last pick. He made that pretty evident. He's such a good player. I'm glad he's on our team."

As for destroying Ovechkin's plan, "He's broken a lot of our dreams when he scores goals. It was really great to see him not get what he wanted," Foligno said jokingly.

"He's got a personality side of him that makes you want to love him. He's a great ambassador for the sport."

Washington plays at Columbus on Tuesday, so Ovechkin can have a chance at the last laugh. But first comes the All-Star Game.

"This game is all about fun," Johansen said. "We're going to be out there goofing around and trying to make some fancy plays."

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