NHL

Players and fans guessing who gets picked last in Raleigh

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The Canadian Press
1/28/2011 7:41:35 AM
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RALEIGH, N.C. -- Corey Perry figures he's a candidate to be the last man standing in Friday's NHL all-star draft.

It's not a position anyone wants to be in, but the Anaheim Ducks forward is a noted agitator. He's pretty sure he's done something over the years to get under the skin of Nicklas Lidstrom and Eric Staal, the two captains who will be in charge of picking the teams.

"I'm sure there's a few different reasons not to pick me," said Perry. who leads the Ducks in points with 26 goals and 25 assists.

He's one of 20 players who could end up being drafted last under the new format developed for Sunday's game at RBC Center in Raleigh (CBC, 4 p.m. ET).

When NHL vice-president Brendan Shanahan came up with the draft idea, he planned to have a group of players selected in the final round to keep the attention off one individual. But the players were overwhelmingly in favour of seeing one of their peers get embarrassed so the format was modified.

More than half of the 42 all-stars have nothing to worry about. The six captains -- Team Lidstrom alternates are Patrick Kane and Martin St. Louis while Ryan Kesler and Mike Green will both wear the A for Team Staal -- already have their spots.

"That's my worst fear is being picked last, so at least I don't have to worry about that now," said Green.

The six goaltenders have to be picked by the 10th round, and the remaining 10 defencemen must be selected by the 15th round.

Kane is happy that he's safe.

"I'm definitely sure you don't want to go last," he said. "It's kind of a tough situation. I've been talking to some of my (Blackhawks)teammates about it.

"Me and Sharpy -- Patrick Sharp -- have been joking about it a lot."

There is plenty of speculation about who might have to stand around until the 18th and final round.

Teenagers Jeff Skinner and Matt Duchene, Vancouver's Daniel and Henrik Sedin and Perry have all been mentioned as possibilities.

However, the captains claim they won't conspire ahead of time and decide which player should be left until the end.

"I haven't spoken to Eric about that," said Lidstrom. "We were on a few conference calls together, but we've never spoke in private about how this is going to go down."

In fact, Staal plans on entering the draft, which will be carried live on TSN at 7:30 p.m. ET, without any specific strategy.

"Just like any other draft, you never know what can happen," he said.

A coin flip determines which player selects first and they alternate picks from there. The captains are also in charge of setting their roster for Saturday's skills competition.

The most likely candidates to be taken with the first pick are Steven Stamkos -- the league-leader with 38 goals and 67 points -- and Alex Ovechkin, who seems to enjoy the all-star game more than most of his peers.

Goalie Cam Ward and Skinner are darkhorse candidates, especially if Staal wins the coin flip and gets to draft first. He'll be eager to lock up his Hurricane teammates.

When the all-star game was last held at Montreal's Bell Centre in 2009, then-Habs forward Alexei Kovalev won the MVP award after scoring the shootout winner as the Eastern Conference beat the Western Conference 12-11.

There was no game last year because of the Vancouver Olympics. Shanahan spent the past couples months working on making changes to spruce up the event.

"I like the new format," said Lidstrom. "I played when we had World versus North America and East versus West. I've been part of some other formats, and I like the change.

"I like something new and different. Having a draft like this, (it's) something we've never done before."

The main attractions of the weekend are likely to be the three hometown Hurricanes: Staal, Skinner and Ward.

A couple of the biggest attractions, however, will not be there.

Pittsburgh superstar Sidney Crosby, the leading vote-getter in fan balloting, is staying home because of a concussion. Penguins teammate Evgeni Malkin, also voted in by fans, is out due to injury as are Edmonton's Ales Hemsky and Atlanta's Tobias Enstrom.

Forwards Danny Briere of the Flyers and Paul Stastny of the Avalanche, and Phoenix defenceman Keith Yandle have been tabbed as replacements.

"It's unfortunate that a few guys are going to be missing out, but there's plenty of talent that is going to be here and it's still going to be a great event for everyone involved," said Staal.

The draft could end up being the most compelling part of the weekend.

Staal has made no secret of the fact that he'd love to draft Ward -- a move that would be welcomed by the hometown fans. However, Lidstrom hinted this week he may try to get the goaltender.

It will also be interesting to see whether Staal drafts his brother Marc of the New York Rangers and how many teammates end up facing one another. The four Blackhawks participants are hoping to be split up.

Most importantly for the league, the event has more buzz than usual.

"The old game was losing its lustre a little bit," said veteran Red Wings GM Ken Holland. "You want the all-star game to be an opportunity to really showcase your players and for a weekend really grab the attention of the sports world, to a degree.

"Obviously, by changing this format ... I certainly think that the Friday night player selection is going to draw a tremendous amount of interest because it's never been done before."

While Perry thinks the player selected last will be subjected to some trash talk, Kane chose to look at it another way.

He figures that person will still have something over most other players.

"I think it's kind of a tough situation, but at the same time there's 600 other NHL players that aren't in the all-star game that you're still playing," said Kane. "So I guess you got to take the positives from a bad situation."

Corey Perry (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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