- Associated Press - Saturday, January 29, 2011

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Nicklas Lidstrom’s first pick in the inaugural NHL All-Star fantasy draft was his only bad one _ choosing the wrong side of a flipped puck with the No. 1 selection on the line.

Eric Staal of the host Carolina Hurricanes quickly picked goalie Cam Ward _ his teammate _ first overall for Team Staal.

“I was the best player available, I guess,” Ward quipped. “Yeah, I was surprised. He wouldn’t tell me. He wouldn’t lay down his cards, at all. Obviously, I knew I had a better chance to have him choose me early because he is a good friend and teammate. But I didn’t know if he really actually wanted me to sweat it out.”

The rest of the rosters for Sunday’s All-Star game _ and Saturday night’s skills competition _ were filled out as 36 players were chosen in the unique draft in which there was really no way to pick a bust.

“I’ve watched past All-Star games, and it’s not exactly goalie-friendly,” Ward said. “It’s how you approach it that matters. I’m here to celebrate and be proud of being All-Star and have fun. I’m not going to get too choked up if I get scored on five times or something like that.

“I’ve got to do something right because I’m the number one overall pick. I guess I’ve got to be lights out.”

Staal was more matter of fact in explaining his decision to go with Ward.

“He is a tremendous goalie, and I won a Stanley Cup with him,” Staal said of the 2006 champion Hurricanes.

Team Lidstrom was hardly hurt by the poor puck luck, as it was able to grab the league’s leader in goals, Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning, with the second choice.

“It was kind of an easy pick for us,” Lidstrom said.

Two-time NHL MVP Alex Ovechkin was taken No. 3 by Staal’s alternate captain Mike Green, who proudly announced the pick of his Washington Capitals teammate. Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler is Staal’s other assistant.

Lidstrom received guidance from his alternates, Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis, and Patrick Kane from the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.

“No arguments,” Lidstrom said. “You’re kind of debating back and forth who to pick.”

Not available was maybe the NHL’s biggest star. Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby was forced to miss the festivities because of the effects of a concussion sustained earlier this month. Crosby and Stamkos tied last season with a league-best 51 goals.

After 34 players came off the board, it came down to Toronto’s Phil Kessel and Paul Stastny of the Colorado Avalanche to determine who would be All-Star hockey’s first “Mr. Irrelevant.” Kessel earned the dubious distinction of being the last pick when Stastny was chosen by Team Staal.

Story Continues →