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Who will be picked last in the NHL All-Star Game draft?

Marty St. Louis rolled his eyes at the question and spit out an exasperated, "Come on."

It's not that St. Louis minded talking. It was just that asking the Lightning's star left wing if he ever was picked last for a pickup game while growing up in Laval, Quebec, was like asking if the sky is purple.

Isn't it obvious?

"If it had to do with hockey in the neighborhood," St. Louis said, "I was never picked last."

Safe to say most NHL players never felt that embarrassing sting. But one will tonight when players choose up sides for Sunday's All-Star Game at the RBC Center in Raleigh, N.C.

The captains, Red Wings defenseman Nick Lidstrom and Hurricanes center Eric Staal, aided by two alternate captains each, will choose from a pool of 36 players to fill out squads of 12 forwards, six defensemen and three goalies.

Conference affiliation does not matter, nor does whether a player is from North America or Europe, both ways All-Star teams have been split in the past.

The only stipulation for the 18-round event is goalies be picked by the end of Round 10 and defensemen by the end of Round 15. In that way, the league says, the final picks will be "true picks" and not determined by position requirements.

It is an interesting twist for a game criticized for being no more than a glorified scrimmage that so little resembles the intense, physical contest played during the season.

"It's great," said St. Louis, who as one of Lidstrom's alternate captains gets to help do the picking. "The fans are going to be excited for it. I can't wait to see who gets picked."

"It's different," said Lightning center Steven Stamkos, in his first All-Star Game. "It's going to bring a lot of fan interest. I know there's going to be a lot of media attention on the guy who gets picked last."

But does the chance of being the NHL's version of Mr. Irrele­vant really matter to players who have achieved a level of stardom?

It's difficult to say because players seemed to laugh it off.

"I've already mentioned if I'm picked last there's going to be quite a few body checks thrown," Blues right wing David Backes said jokingly to AOL Fanhouse. "So that's a forewarning for anyone picking teams."

Said Flyers right wing Claude Giroux to the Philadelphia Daily News: "If I'm not picked last, then it's a good format."

Lightning coach Guy Boucher said not to kid yourself.

"Anybody that's in the NHL has a lot of pride, but the top guys have a lot of pride," he said. "It's like when you're playing in the school yard. They draft. They draft, and all of a sudden, you're last. No matter where it is, it's not very fun."

For Boucher, the fun will be seeing if Stamkos and St. Louis are on the same team.

And though he acknowledged it would be novel to see his two best players wearing different colors, he said, "I'd rather see them together. If they're not together, the fans will enjoy watching them play, but they're our boys."

One thing Stamkos does not have to worry about is being picked last. There even is speculation the league leader with 38 goals and 67 points could be picked first if Lidstrom's team, with St. Louis lobbying hard, wins the coin toss that determines first choice.

"Hopefully, we'll be on the same team," Stamkos said. "I've got to put some pressure on him to pick me."

"I'm going to watch it big time," defenseman Victor Hedman said. "It's going to be fun to see where Stammer goes. Hopefully, he'll play with Marty."

As for who is picked last, Hedman said it is irrelevant.

"Everyone there is still a hell of a player," he said. "I would be there and go last. It wouldn't matter to me a bit."

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@sptimes.com.

All-Star schedule

Tonight: Draft, 8, Versus

Saturday: Skills competition, 7, Versus

Sunday: Game, 4, Versus

Lightning players: Marty St. Louis, Steven Stamkos

Who will be picked last in the NHL All-Star Game draft? 01/27/11 [Last modified: Friday, January 28, 2011 7:03am]
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