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2020 AHL All-Star Classic: What to watch for

Frost, Bouchard among prospects participating in skills competition, 3-on-3 tournament

by Patrick Williams / NHL.com Independent Correspondent

The American Hockey League is bringing the 2020 AHL All-Star Classic to California.

Ontario (Los Angeles Kings) will host the two-day event that starts Sunday. 

Here is what to watch for:

 

The details

The AHL All-Star Skills Competition is Sunday (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN).

The AHL All-Star Challenge, a 3-on-3 round-robin tournament featuring four teams, one representing each division, is Monday (10 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN).

 

Going west

Ontario is the first West Coast-based team to host the annual event.

As part of an initiative to provide geographically convenient affiliations for NHL teams, Ontario was one of five teams that moved to California before the 2015-16 season, joining Stockton (Calgary Flames), San Diego (Anaheim Ducks), Bakersfield (Edmonton Oilers) and San Jose (San Jose Sharks). Tucson (Arizona Coyotes) joined for the 2016-17 season and Colorado (Colorado Avalanche) started play in 2018-19 to further the western representation. The AHL will add its sixth California team in 2021-22 when Palm Springs, the AHL affiliate of the NHL expansion team in Seattle, debuts.

 

Hometown favorites

Ontario is one of three teams with three players in the event, joining Belleville (Ottawa Senators) and Iowa (Minnesota Wild).

Goalie Cal Petersen, defenseman Kale Clague and forward Martin Frk will represent the hometown team Sunday and Monday.

Petersen leads AHL goalies in games (36), minutes (2,018:14), and shots-against (1,234). The 25-year-old, who's in his third pro season after four seasons at the University of Notre Dame of the NCAA, was selected by the Buffalo Sabres in the fifth round (No. 129) of the 2013 NHL Draft, and signed with the Kings as a free agent July 1, 2017. 

Making his second AHL All-Star appearance, Petersen is 16-15-4 with a 3.45 goals-against average and .906 save percentage.

Clague, who is in his second pro season, was selected by the Kings in the second round (No. 51) of the 2016 NHL Draft. The 21-year-old has 16 points (six goals, 10 assists) in 34 games for Ontario and played four games for the Kings, making his NHL debut on Dec. 21 against the Sabres.

Frk leads Ontario in scoring with 30 points (20 goals, 10 assists) and is tied for sixth in the AHL in goals. The 26-year-old has played four games with the Kings, scoring three goals, including two against the Sharks on Dec. 27.

A second-round pick (No. 49) by the Detroit Red Wings in the 2012 NHL Draft, Frk had 31 points (12 goals, 19 assists) in 100 regular-season games with Detroit, and won a Calder Cup championship with Grand Rapids, the Red Wings' affiliate, in 2017. He signed with Los Angeles as a free agent July 1, 2019.

 

Coaching talent

Kris Knoblauch of Hartford (New York Rangers) is the Atlantic Division coach and Chris Taylor of Rochester (Sabres) is the North Division coach. They will represent the Eastern Conference.

In the Western Conference, Karl Taylor from AHL-leading Milwaukee (Nashville Predators) is the Central Division coach and Jay Varady of Tucson is the Pacific Division coach.

 

First-round talent

Five recent first-round draft picks add considerable star power to the event.

Morgan Frost, who was a first-round pick (No. 27) by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2017 NHL Draft has 19 points (eight goals, 11 assists) in 27 games with Lehigh Valley. The 20-year-old forward also has played 18 NHL games for the Flyers and has seven points (two goals, five assists), scoring goals in his first two NHL games, Nov. 19 at the Florida Panthers and Nov. 21 at the Carolina Hurricanes.

Owen Tippett of Springfield is in a second-place tie in rookie scoring with 37 points (18 goals, 19 assists) in 45 games. The 20-year-old forward was selected by the Panthers in the first-round (No. 10) of the 2017 NHL Draft.

Three defensemen selected in the first round will also participate in the 2020 AHL All-Star Classic. 

Evan Bouchard of Bakersfield was selected with the No. 10 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft by the Oilers and has 25 points (seven goals, 18 assists) in 41 games. The 20-year-old leads AHL rookie defensemen in goals and his 25 points tie him for second among rookie defensemen. 

Joining Bouchard is the No. 13 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, Jake Bean of Charlotte (Hurricanes). The 21-year-old is tied for second in scoring by AHL defensemen with 32 points (seven goals, 25 assists) in 40 games.

Timothy Liljegren of Toronto was added the AHL All-Star Classic on Sunday. Selected by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round (No. 17) of the 2017 NHL Draft, Liljegren has 26 points (four goals, 22 assists) in 35 AHL games, leading Toronto defensemen in scoring. He made his NHL debut against the Chicago Blackhawks on Jan. 18.

 

NHL experience

While top young prospects help headline the AHL All-Star Classic, players with extensive NHL experience will also be on hand.

Matt Moulson of Hershey (Washington Capitals), fresh off playing his 1,000th professional game this past Friday at Springfield, will bring a familiar face for Southern California fans. 

The 36-year-old forward played 650 regular-season games with the Kings, New York Islanders, Sabres and Wild in the NHL.

Last season, Moulson played with Ontario, leading the team in scoring with 62 points (28 goals, 36 assists) in 68 regular-season games. He signed an AHL contract with Hershey in the offseason and has 30 points (15 goals, 15 assists) in 45 games, including two goals in his 1,000th professional game.

Moulson and Grand Rapids veteran forward Matt Ford are the All-Star captains.

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