RALEIGH, N.C. – Nicklas Lidstrom’s first pick in the inaugural NHL All-Star fantasy draft was his only bad one – choosing the wrong side of a flipped puck with the No. 1 selection on the line.
Eric Staal of the host Carolina Hurricanes quickly picked goalie Cam Ward – his teammate – first overall for Team Staal.
“I was the best player available, I guess,” Ward quipped.
The rest of the rosters for Sunday’s All-Star game – and tonight’s skills competition – were filled out as 36 players were chosen in the unique draft where there was really no way to pick a bust.
Team Lidstrom was hardly hurt by the poor puck luck, as it was able to grab the league’s leader in goals, Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning, with the second choice. Two-time NHL MVP Alex Ovechkin was taken No. 3 by Staal’s alternate captain Mike Green, who proudly announced the pick of his Washington Capitals teammate.
Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler is Staal’s other assistant.
Lidstrom received guidance from his alternates, Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis, and Patrick Kane from the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.
The most glaring omission of the early rounds was the absence of Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, who was forced to miss the festivities because of the effects of a concussion sustained earlier this month.
After 30 players came off the board, it came down to Toronto’s Phil Kessel and Paul Stastny of the Colorado Avalanche to determine who would be hockey’s first “Mr. Irrelevant.” Kessel earned the dubious distinction of being the last pick when Stastny was chosen by Team Staal.
“I’m just happy to be here,” Kessel said.
The NHL invented this new All-Star format after five years of pitting the Eastern Conference against the Western Conference, following a run of North American All-Stars versus their World counterparts.