Some may be surprised by his swift shot to stardom, but 19-year-old Auston Matthews is most certainly not.
The Maple Leafs centre added all-star honours to a rookie NHL season which has already included a historic four-goal NHL debut and 20 goals in less than 40 games. Matthews became the youngest Leaf to earn an all-star nod since Wendel Clark made it 31 years ago.
He's currently on track to break not only Clark's team record for goals by a Leafs rookie (34), but also Peter Ihnacak's team rookie mark for points (66).
None of this seems to have surprised the Arizona product and first overall pick of the 2016 draft.
"Honestly not really," said Matthews on a conference call from Florida where he and some teammates were relaxing during the team's bye week. "I know what I'm capable of."
Matthews was joined on the all-star squad by Winnipeg Jets' sensation Patrik Laine, the current rookie scoring leader (37 points). He and Matthews are tied with 21 goals apiece, storming toward rookie seasons of historic proportions. Fewer than 20 rookies in NHL history have scored 40 goals, a mark both are trending towards with nearly half the year in the books.
Matthews said he was excited to meet Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and the rest of the all-star crew in Los Angeles, which also includes the NHL's leading scorer Connor McDavid, a first-time all-star, along with mainstays like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, P.K. Subban and Alex Ovechkin.
Laine is questionable to participate after he suffering a concussion recently against Buffalo. If he can't go, Winnipeg forwards Mark Scheifele or Nikolaj Ehlers, who share the Jets' scoring lead with Laine, are possible replacements.
Second in rookie scoring with 35 points, Matthews joins a team captained by Montreal No. 1 Carey Price as well as Canadiens top defenceman Shea Weber and Ottawa rearguard Erik Karlsson.
The Pacific Division roster, captained by McDavid, includes Calgary forward Johnny Gaudreau and Vancouver forward Bo Horvat.
The all-star weekend will be held Jan. 28-29 in Los Angeles. Jeff Carter and reigning Norris trophy winner Drew Doughty are due to represent the hometown Kings.
The game format will again be a 3-on-3 tournament featuring a 11-man team from each of the NHL's four divisions. The players will also compete in a skills competition on Saturday, Jan. 28.
The Pacific Division won the tournament last year, but the weekend was dominated by the unlikely story of John Scott. The journeyman enforcer scored two goals and was voted the MVP after an equally improbable grassroots online campaign by fans to vote him into the game as a captain.
Arizona ended up without a player at last year's game after Scott was traded to Montreal. The Coyotes will be represented this time by goalie Mike Smith, an all-star for the first time in his 11-year NHL career.
Among other first-time all-stars is Philadelphia forward Wayne Simmonds, who began his NHL career with Los Angeles before being traded for Mike Richards five years ago.
"It's kind of surreal," Simmonds said after a morning skate in Buffalo. "It makes me think when I was a young kid watching the All-Star games, and watching all the great players who played in it. To even be mentioned in the same breath as All-Stars in the NHL is pretty special, and it's a great accomplishment."
Columbus, which has roared to the top of the overall NHL standings with its recent 16-game winning streak, will send only
The coaches will be Columbus's John Tortorella, Minnesota's Bruce Boudreau, San Jose's Peter DeBoer and Montreal's Michel Therrien.
Although the rosters frequently change due to injury, every team currently has a player representative at the midseason extravaganza, which changed format last season to a four-team tournament of 20-minute games. Each team consists of six forwards, three
Goaltenders: Carey Price, Montreal (capt.); Tuukka Rask, Boston
Defence: Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay; Erik Karlsson, Ottawa; Shea Weber, Montreal
Forwards: Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay; Brad Marchand, Boston; Auston Matthews, Toronto; Frans Nielsen,Detroit; Kyle Okposo, Buffalo; Vincent Trochek, Florida
Goaltenders: Sergei Bobrovski, Columbus; Braden Holtby, Washington
Defence: Justin Faulk, Carolina; Seth Jones, Columbus; Ryan McDonagh, New York Rangers
Forwards: Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh (capt.); Taylor Hall, New Jersey; Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh; Alex Ovechkin, Washington; Wayne Simmonds, Philadelphia; John Tavares,New York Islanders
Goaltenders: Corey Crawford, Chicago; Devan Dubnyk, Minnesota
Defence: Duncan Keith, Chicago; P.K. Subban, Nashville (capt.); Ryan Suter, Minnesota
Forwards: Patrick Kane, Chicago; Patrik Laine, Winnipeg; Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado; Tyler Seguin, Dallas; Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis; Jonathan Toews, Chicago
Goaltenders: Martin Jones, San Jose; Mike Smith, Arizona
Defence: Brent Burns, San Jose; Drew Doughty, Los Angeles; Cam Fowler, Anaheim
Forwards: Jeff Carter, Los Angeles; Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary; Bo Horvat, Vancouver; Ryan Kesler, Anaheim; Connor McDavid, Edmonton (capt.); Joe Pavelski, San Jose
— With files from The Associated Press