2012 NHL All-Star Game: Top 5 Former YoungStars
The NHL YoungStars game features a group of rookies and second-year players who represent the future of the NHL.
Hockey fans knew players like Pavel Datsyuk of the Detroit Red Wings, Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators would turn into superstars in this league before they were selected as representatives for the NHL YoungStars game in seasons past.
However, several other players formerly selected to play in the game featuring the NHL’s future have started to emerge as premiere skaters in the NHL.
James Neal (Pittsburgh Penguins)
James Neal put up good numbers for a rookie with the Dallas Stars, often playing with playmaking center Brad Richards and speedy winger Loui Eriksson.
The Stars dealt the 23-year-old winger to the Pittsburgh Penguins along with defenseman Matt Niskanen in exchange for offensive defenseman Alex Goligoski at last year’s trade deadline.
Neal didn’t find his scoring touch with the injury-riddled Penguins last season, partly due to the shock of being traded.
However, playing on a line with superstar Evgeni Malkin this season, Neal has already matched his career-high goal total and is only eight points away from matching his career high in points, and there’s still 33 games to be played.
Neal has scored in all shapes and forms this season, from going hard to the net to ripping a wrister past an outstretched glove.
Carey Price (Montréal Canadiens)
Price has a tough draw playing in front of the very hockey-knowledgeable fans in Montréal. Just ask Hall of Famer Patrick Roy.
Only 24 years old, Price has emerged as a premier goaltender in the league, even with his team struggling this season.
Price is considered a front-runner, along with Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury, for the starting job as Team Canada’s top netminder for the upcoming Winter Olympic games.
Playing in his second All-Star game, Price isn’t having his best statistical season this year, but he's still kept the Canadiens in the hunt for a seventh or eighth playoff seed.
Phil Kessel (Toronto Maple Leafs)
Last years’ final draft pick in the NHL All-Star fantasy draft might have translated to being the last pick into a couple of extra points.
Kessel seems to have found his stride in Toronto. He led the league in goals and points for a couple of months early this season.
He’s cooled off a bit, but he's still on pace to finish with 43 goals and 85 points, eclipsing his career high of 64 points by 21.
Kris Letang (Pittsburgh Penguins)
Twenty-five-year-old Kris Letang entered last season with big shoes to fill after Sergei Gonchar decided not to renew his contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Before losing Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to injuries, Letang put up huge numbers from the blue line and was a serious contender for the Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenseman at the midpoint of last season.
This season, “Tanger” started the season in a similar fashion before missing 21 games with a concussion and broken nose.
Since coming back, he hasn’t missed a beat, and he earned a spot on the All-Star roster as an injury replacement.
On a side note, Kris Letang may have the best hair in the game.
Steven Stamkos (Tampa Bay Lightning)
Stammer struggled a bit in his rookie season with the Tampa Bay Lightning, but he's since solidified himself as one of the league’s top players and most lethal scorers.
Stamkos already has an Rocket Richard Trophy as the NHL’s leading goal scorer, and he played well in his first postseason for the Lightning, helping them get to the Eastern Conference Finals last year.
This season, Stamkos has had his ups and downs, but he started breaking away as the goal-scoring leader recently. He has 32 going into the All-Star break, five ahead of James Neal and Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks.