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Matthews takes Leafs teammates Nylander, Marner at NHL All-Star draft


TORONTO — Auston Matthews kept the family together at the NHL all-star player draft.

The Maple Leafs sniper, along with Toronto defenceman Morgan Rielly and celebrity captain Justin Bieber, used his first two picks Thursday on teammates William Nylander and Mitch Marner ahead of Saturday's four-team showcase.

"Willie not so much, but we were getting threatened by Mitch that if we didn't take him he would do something bad," Matthews said with a smile when asked if there were bribes offered.

"There was a lot of discussion on what we should do with that second pick."

Team Matthews also includes Filip Forsberg (Nashville), Clayton Keller (Arizona), Mathew Barzal (New York Islanders), Vincent Trocheck (New York Rangers), Alex DeBrincat (Detroit), Jake Oettinger (Dallas) and Igor Shesterkin (Rangers).

Oilers star Connor McDavid, along with Edmonton teammate Leon Draisaitl and celebrity captain Will Arnett, put together a roster that includes Sam Reinhart (Florida), Nick Suzuki (Montreal), Robert Thomas (St. Louis), Rasmus Dahlin (Buffalo), Boone Jenner (Columbus), Tomas Hertl (San Jose), David Pastrnak (Boston), Connor Hellebuyck (Winnipeg) and Sergei Bobrovsky (Florida).

Arnett, a Toronto-born actor, wore a Leafs hat throughout the draft despite linking up with a couple of Oilers.

"I noticed that," McDavid said. "I thought maybe he could have changed it or we could have maybe brought him (an Edmonton) one. But he's proud of being from Toronto, he's proud to be a Leafs fan.

"You can't fault a guy in that. He's definitely passionate."

Team McDavid also contemplated taking Marner when he was still on the board.

"It crossed our mind," McDavid said. "But ultimately we feel good about our picks."

Arnett said he was largely in a supporting role at Scotiabank Arena.

"The last thing you want to do when you're putting a hockey team together is ask the actor for his advice," he said.

Vancouver Canucks defenceman Quinn Hughes and brother Jack Hughes — an injured centre with the New Jersey Devils — co-captained their team with Canadian singer Michael Buble.

The roster with a decidedly West Coast and American feel also features Brock Boeser (Vancouver), Brady Tkachuk (Ottawa), J.T. Miller (Vancouver), Elias Pettersson (Vancouver), Jesper Bratt (New Jersey), Frank Vatrano (Anaheim), Kyle Connor (Winnipeg), Nikita Kucherov (Tampa Bay), Thatcher Demko (Vancouver) and Cam Talbot (Los Angeles).

Avalanche centre Nathan MacKinnon, along with Colorado defenceman Cale Makar and Canadian singer-songwriter Tate McRae, rounded out the four-team tournament.

Acquired by Vancouver in a trade with Calgary on Wednesday, Elias Lindholm will have to wait a little longer to play with his new teammates after being taken by Team MacKinnon.

The roster also includes Travis Konecny (Philadelphia), Sebastian Aho (Carolina), Oliver Bjorkstrand (Seattle), Tom Wilson (Washington), Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh), Kirill Kaprizov (Minnesota), Jeremy Swayman (Boston) and Alexandar Georgiev (Colorado).

The league used a player draft at the all-star game for a two-team format in 2011, 2012 and 2015 before going to a division-based setup in 2016.

The event was cancelled in 2013 due to the lockout, while the game wasn't held in 2014 because of the Olympics.

Past player drafts included some memorable moments, including Phil Kessel winning a car after being picked last in 2012.

Alex Ovechkin, meanwhile, lobbied to be taken with the final selection in 2015 in hopes of scoring some new wheels before hearing his name called with three players left on the board.

Maple Leaf Gardens hosted the first all-star game in 1934 as a benefit fundraiser for Toronto forward Ace Bailey, who had suffered a career-ending injury.

The NHL's first official all-star game was held in the same building 13 years later featuring the Stanley Cup-winning Leafs.

The 2024 event marks the ninth time Toronto has hosted host NHL all-star activities — one that will see Marner skating alongside Matthews, Rielly and Nylander.

"We love Mitchy," Matthews said. "We didn't want to make him sweat too much and wait it out.

"We had to get him on our team."


Members of the '67 Leafs — the last time the franchise won the Cup — were honoured before Professional Women's Hockey League players suited up for a 3-on-3 game.


Canadian Olympic figure skating champion Tessa Virtue, who is married to Rielly, coached one of the teams for the PWHL game.

So did the Leafs defenceman give his wife any pointers?

"A little bit of advice on the pre-game speech," Rielly said. "That was about it. I think she's got the rest covered."


The Canucks centre is looking forward to competing in the US$1-million skills competition Friday — a revamped event will see 12 players participate in a series of events.

"It will be fun to see guys doing not only one thing," Pettersson said. I'm excited."

He will take on Matthews, Makar, Pastrnak and Miller in the hardest shot competition.

"I'm going up against guys who shoot hard," Pettersson said. "Try to do my best and can't focus too much on them.

"But I like my chances."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 1, 2024.


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