Roman Josi remembers his first NHL All-Star appearance like it was yesterday.
"Definitely my first one here," the Predators captain says of his biggest All-Star memory. "It was my first All-Star Game, and it was in Nashville. I think just coming out on the ice being at home, hearing your name get announced. It was pretty special."
This year's All-Star Game might be in a different location, but if anything remains constant, it's Josi's name on the Central Division roster. This will be Josi's third All-Star appearance, all of which have come in the past five seasons. It also marks his second consecutive appearance after participating in last year's festivities in San Jose.
"Last season it was really cool," Josi says. "It's just the whole event. The 3-on-3 is fun, and like I said, being around those guys is pretty cool."
The nine-year veteran is having his best season to date, ranking second in points (48), goals (14), and assists (34) amongst NHL defensemen. His 48 points in 47 games puts him on pace to compete with Paul Kariya's franchise record of 85 points in a single season. Even in a year that's seen a coaching change and several different defensive partners due to Ryan Ellis's injury, Josi's production has remained a hallmark of Nashville's success.
And while some players around the League are skipping the game and using the All-Star break as a chance to refuel, Josi views the nod as too good to pass up.
"For me it's an honor to go," he says. "I've always had a great time playing in the All-Star Game, and it's a huge honor."
Throughout the years, however, the blueliner's perspective has changed quite a bit. Once a younger guy eager to jump into the festivities, he's now fairly content watching the League's elite on the ice.
"I definitely sit on the bench sometimes and just enjoy watching it," Josi says. "I mean, normally I play against these guys and it's pretty fun to be out there with them. You see the skill of some players and it really shows up."
Josi says that the All-Star Game allows him to see some of his favorite players up close and gives him a chance to learn from his fellow greats. He wasted no time heaping praise upon the guys he loves to watch.
"[Edmonton Oilers Captain Connor] McDavid is real special," Josi says. He's unbelievable, and he's definitely fun to watch. Then I think for me, as a defenseman, I love watching other defensive guys play like [Washington Capitals defenseman John] Carlson, [Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor] Hedman, [Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew] Doughty, all those guys."
Josi will take the ice in St. Louis on Saturday at 7 p.m. CT for the NHL All-Star Game, just 24 hours after participating in NHL Skills. The competition, which includes favorite challenges like the Bridgestone NHL Fastest Skater and the Enterprise NHL Hardest Shot, continues to grow in popularity, and the players enjoy it as much as the fans.
"It's fun," Josi says of the challenges. "Especially the players that are going to be in it. I mean obviously [Montreal Canadiens Captain Shea Weber] in the hardest shot is always fun to watch, and Connor McDavid in fastest skater. It's pretty cool to see those guys go at it."
This year's competition will include the institution of two new events: the Elite Women's 3-on-3 presented by adidas and the Gatorade NHL Shooting Stars.
"It's pretty cool," says Josi of the Shooting Stars challenge, where 10 players - eight NHL All-Stars, one American Elite Women's All-Star team member and one Canadian Elite Women's All-Star team member - will shoot at a variety of targets from approximately 30 feet above the ice surface. "I don't know how it's exactly going to be, but I read something about it and it sounds pretty fun."
Events that will feature Josi will be announced soon, but look for the captain to show off his talents on Friday night before he takes the ice Saturday. He'll look to guide the Central Division to its first championship since the NHL All-Star Game format changed back in 2016 when it was held at Bridgestone Arena.
Josi was a part of that game in 2016, and hearing his name called as an All-Star for the very first time in his home building is a feeling he'll never forget.
Now, it's starting to become a regularly scheduled announcement.