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Lightning’s Brayden Point named to All Star team

Lightning center will replace injured defenseman Victor Hedman.

PHILADELPHIA — Brayden Point had just wrapped up the Lightning's thrilling 4-3 come-from-behind overtime victory in Nashville on Tuesday night when he got some news that blew him away.

Point, 21, is going to his first NHL All-Star Game, a replacement for injured Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman on the Atlantic Division team for Sunday's game in Tampa. One of the first people Point phoned Wednesday was Todd Hudson, who was his billet family in juniors his four years with Moose Jaw.

"He had no idea this was coming," Hudson said. "He was in shock. Didn't have a clue. But he's pretty stoked now."

Point should be. He's very deserving, the second-year pro already one of Tampa Bay's best players, Point's 19 goals second to fellow All-Star Nikita Kucherov. The 5-foot-10, two-way center has been the key cog on the Lightning's shutdown line, a plus-19 despite facing other team's top lines. Columbus coach John Tortorella labeled Point the "heartbeat" of Tampa Bay.

Kings coach John Stevens said in November that Point will be a star. Now he's an All-Star.

"The story continues," Moose Jaw coach Tim Hunter said. "I never imagined he'd be an All-Star this early in his career. But I always envisioned he'd be a great player in the league someday.

"He's a smaller guy that people didn't think could make it. People didn't think he had enough skill. And he keeps proving people wrong. And he doesn't let people down that give him the opportunity."

Point has turned heads his entire career. There was his rookie season in Moose Jaw, a new teammate joking he thought Point was a younger brother of someone on the team. Point led the Warriors in playoff points.

Last season, Point, a third-round pick in 2014, became the only first-year pro in GM Steve Yzerman's tenure in Tampa Bay to make the team out of training camp. By the end of the season, Point — due to injuries to Steven Stamkos and Tyler Johnson — was the Lightning's No. 1 center.

Avalanche star Nathan MacKinnon said a lot of fellow Team Canada teammates were surprised with how good Point was at May's World Championships. "He's a special player," MacKinnon.

And now an All-Star. Point will join Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Andrei Vasilevskiy on the Atlantic Division team, which coach Jon Cooper will coach. The game is Sunday at 3 p.m. at Amalie Arena.

Once Hudson got the news from Point, he scrambled to find flights from his home, which is outside Regina, Saskatchewan. Hudson, who buys and sells cattle, had a big shipment coming in soon. But nothing will stop him from missing the weekend. He'll get into Tampa around 5 p.m. Saturday, just in time for the 7 p.m. skills competition.

Hudson admits he laughed at first when Point told him he was an All-Star. Not in mocking fashion, more marveling. Hudson recalled the day Point first showed up at his ranch as a tiny teenager, and he wondered "what he could do for anybody." Now two Point jerseys are hung up in Hudson's cedar-covered man cave, next to one of fellow former Warriors great Theo Fleury.

"That little (sucker) never ceases to amaze me," Hudson said. "He keeps grinding, grinding. He makes his own path."

A path that leads right to the All-Star Game.