For the first time in 18 years, the NHL is coming out of a lockout in a better-late-than-never fashion to commence a 48-game season in late January. By uncanny coincidence, January will also mark the first AHL All-Star Game to be played in Providence, R.I. in 18 years.
As it was then, unlike in the 2004-05 NHL season that never was, the return of the parent circuit will mean trimming off a would-be extra layer of talent in the midseason minor league showcase. Nevertheless, there will still be a gratifying assortment of promising prospects on display.
Past AHL All-Stars who played in the constellation exhibition alongside an active NHL season have included Danny Briere (1998), Ryan Miller (2004), Tuukka Rask (2008), Pekka Rinne (2008) and Bobby Ryan (2008).
The 2013 Eastern and Western Conference rosters, released on Thursday, may still be subject to change depending on call-ups over the first week of the NHL season. But based on how they stand right now, here are 10 figures that NHL fans should make a point of following, if they have not already.