Auston Matthews will serve as the unofficial host of next month’s All-Star Festival in Toronto.
Not only was the NHL’s leading scorer chosen to represent the Maple Leafs in the first round of All-Star selections announced Thursday night, but multiple industry sources say Matthews will be the team captain for the 2019 event. He will serve as one of the four. Scotiabank Arena from February 1st to 3rd.
The NHL has eliminated the divisional format for All-Star Weekend, instead allowing captains to draft their own teams for the 3-on-3 tournament. The draft will be televised on kickoff weekend, along with a showcase of PWHL players. The NHL is not expected to officially name a captain until later this month, but officials say Matthews and Edmonton Oilers superstar Connor McDavid have already agreed to lead two of the teams.
The league is also revamping its skills competition format, with Matthews now signed on as one of 12 players competing for a $1 million prize given to the individual who scores the most points in eight events.
This ensures that the former Hart Trophy winner remains front and center throughout All-Star weekend, which will be held in Toronto for the first time since 2000.
Matthews has now been named an All-Star in all seven NHL seasons in which he was eligible. On Wednesday, he scored his 30th goal of the season in overtime, giving the Leafs a win over Anaheim and a three-point lead over Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov, who was atop the league standings at the start of Thursday’s game. He spoke to reporters about the prospect of doing so. In your own backyard.
“This is a special event because it will be held in Toronto,” he said. “So I definitely don’t take it for granted. I’m sure we have a lot of players who deserve to go.”
The Leafs aren’t alone in this regard, but they will need help from the fans to get another representative or two into the game. The NHL will select one player from each of its 32 teams, and the remaining 12 All-Star spots will be determined by online voting.
William Nylander was one of the most notable absentees, as Matthews’ teammates entered Thursday’s game with 51 points, ranking him fifth in the league in overall scoring. New York Rangers star Artemi Panarin was one spot ahead on the NHL scoring list, but was surpassed by Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin.
The format also requires fan help to get McDavid’s Oilers teammate Leon Draisaitl to play, while Elias Pettersson, JT Miller, Brock Boeser and Thatcher Demko also make all-out appearances. Despite this, Quinn Hughes was the only Vancouver Canucks player to receive automatic eligibility. A campaign worthy of a star.
With the league’s second-leading scorer Nathan MacKinnon selected to represent the Colorado Avalanche, teammates Mikko Rantanen and Cale Makar needed fan support to book a trip to Toronto.
Finally, Stanley Cup-winning goaltender Addin Hill, who had an NHL-best save percentage of .933 entering Thursday’s game, was replaced by Las Vegas Golden Knights teammate Jack Eichel, making him an All-Star. was removed from the initial list.
Full list of Eastern Conference players
- Boston Bruins: David Pastrnak, F
- Buffalo Sabres: Rasmus Dahlin, D
- Carolina Hurricanes: Sebastian Aho, F
- Columbus Blue Jackets: Boone Jenner, F
- Detroit Red Wings: Alex DeBrincat, F
- Florida Panthers: Sam Reinhart, F
- Montreal Canadiens: Nick Suzuki, F
- New Jersey Devils: Jack Hughes, F
- New York Islanders: Matthew Barzal, F
- New York Rangers: Igor Shesterkin, G
- Ottawa Senators: Brady Tkachuk, F
- Philadelphia Flyers: Travis Konecny, F
- Pittsburgh Penguins: Sidney Crosby, F
- Tampa Bay Lightning: Nikita Kucherov, F
- Toronto Maple Leafs: Auston Matthews, F
- Washington Capitals: Tom Wilson, F
Full Western Conference Player List
- Anaheim Ducks: Frank Vatrano, F
- Arizona Coyotes: Clayton Keller, F
- Calgary Flames: Elias Lindholm, F
- Chicago Blackhawks: Connor Bedard, F
- Colorado Avalanche: Nathan MacKinnon, F
- Dallas Stars: Jake Oettinger, G
- Edmonton Oilers: Connor McDavid, F
- Los Angeles Kings: Cam Talbot, G
- Minnesota Wild: Kirill Kaprizov, F
- Nashville Predators: Filip Forsberg, F
- San Jose Sharks: Thomas Hertl, F
- St. Louis Blues: Robert Thomas, F
- Seattle Kraken: Oliver Bjorkstrand, F
- Vancouver Canucks: Quinn Hughes, D
- Vegas Golden Knights: Jack Eichel, F
- Winnipeg Jets: Connor Hellebuyck, G
(Photo: Sean M. Huffey/Getty Images)