Leafs' Phil Kessel added to roster

Updated: January 13, 2012, 2:06 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

OTTAWA -- Phil Kessel is heading back to the NHL All-Star Game, and this time it's hard to imagine him left standing until the end of the draft.

The Toronto Maple Leafs' forward was one of 36 players added to the Jan. 29 game by the league's hockey operations department Thursday. He'll be joined in Ottawa this month by linemate Joffrey Lupul and Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf, who was already voted in by fans.

Last year, Kessel was the last selection in the inaugural drafting of the teams -- a somewhat embarrassing moment that included Capitals star Alex Ovechkin chuckling and taking photos of Kessel standing on the stage alone. Part of the All-Star plan, however, was that the last pick got a new car and a check for $20,000.

Kessel donated the money to charity, and still has the Honda CR-Z.

"Hopefully he's not selected last two years in a row," Lupul said Thursday. "But he got a car for it, so I mean it's not all bad, right?"

And at any rate, no one can laugh at him now.

Kessel has been among the league's most prolific players. He entered play Thursday tied for second in scoring (48 points) with Philadelphia Flyers forward Claude Giroux, another newly minted All-Star.

The top nine scorers have all been selected for the showcase, including Tampa's Steven Stamkos, Vancouver's Daniel Sedin, Chicago's Marian Hossa, Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin and Ottawa's Jason Spezza along with Giroux, Kessel and Lupul.

For Hossa, it's a return to familiar ground, having spent his first seven seasons with the Senators.

"It's a huge thing for the fans and media," Hossa said. "It's also a fun game to play in, lots of goals and seeing lots of friends on the ice. There will be some guys I know in Ottawa and it's going to be nice to see them."

New York Rangers forward Marian Gaborik, who leads the Rangers in scoring with 23 goals and 11 assists in what has been an outstanding first half of the season, is a first-time selection. His absence from the fan ballot earlier this season prompted coach John Tortorella to call the league "ass-backwards."

Sedin will be joined by twin brother Henrik and defenseman Alexander Edler. The Canucks, Leafs, Bruins, Rangers and Blackhawks all have three representatives.

"I think it means a lot," Henrik Sedin said. "It's one of those things I think you're going to look back at when you're done playing (and feel proud) that you've been to one or a few of those. That's something you can tell your grandkids."

The host Senators lead the way with the four players voted in by fans -- Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson, Milan Michalek and Erik Karlsson.

The Capitals will be represented by defenseman Dennis Wideman, in addition to Ovechkin. Wideman was notified of his first-time selection by general manager George McPhee, and given Wideman's history of getting traded -- three teams in seven seasons -- he was expecting different news.

"When he called me I was like, 'Oh man, where am I going now?' " Wideman said. "It was good. I was pretty excited. A little caught off-guard, but excited about it."

Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla, Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price and Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien will also participate in the game at Scotiabank Place.

The event will be preceded again by a draft to determine the teams. The captains and assistants in charge of selections will be announced next week.

In addition to the main All-Stars, 12 rookies have also been invited to participate in the skills competition, including Colin Greening of the Senators, Cody Hodgson of the Canucks and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Oilers, who is recovering from a separated left shoulder.

Veteran Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom and Ducks forward Teemu Selanne each asked to be overlooked in order to benefit from the four-day break.

"I've been there many times," said Selanne, a 10-time All-Star. "I honestly think for the young players it's a good opportunity."

The coaches will be John Tortorella of the Rangers and Todd McClellan of the Sharks; their teams led their respective conferences at the cutoff date.

Information from ESPNNewYork.com's Katie Strang and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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