Kesler third Moose going to big game

ADAM WAZNY -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:11 AM ET

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah -- As expected, a third all-star will burn bright for the Manitoba Moose next month.

Second-year forward Ryan Kesler was named to the AHL's PlanetUSA All-Star team, a day after two of his teammates -- Jason King and Nolan Baumgartner -- were selected to the Canadian side.

The 2005 AHL All-Star Classic is at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, N.H., with the skills competition being held on Sunday, Feb. 13 and the game taking place Monday, Feb. 14.

WASN'T SURPRISED

Moose head coach Randy Carlyle wasn't surprised at Kesler's selection, as he's been praising the strong play of the two-way centre all year.

"He's just playing the way our expectations were," Carlyle said after practice yesterday. The Moose (29-11-1-3) take on the Utah Grizzlies (10-29-0-2) tonight and Saturday, both at 8 p.m.

"We expect him to be a complete hockey player," the coach added. "The thing that was disturbing for us was that at training camp he didn't have the skating legs he has now. That was due in part to how heavy he was."

The Vancouver Canucks told Kesler to put on some weight and get stronger over the summer and the first-round pick (23rd overall) in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft complied -- maybe a bit to much.

"When you're 182-pounds and you come (to camp) at 217-pounds, there's a big difference," Carlyle said. "He's only 20-years-old, and we keep forgetting that. He's going to develop some natural strength along with the strength that he has."

Kesler, with 19 goals and 38 points, said his increased mass has been the biggest difference. It gives him the ability to cycle against bigger defencemen in the corners and out-muscle other centres in the middle of the ice.

"That's probably the one big factor from last year," he said. "Me being stronger gives me more room to work out there."

Regardless of how he got there or how much he weighs these days, the quiet Kesler is looking forward to the all-star game, though his composed nature may have taken over any excitement he had.

"It's a great honour to be named one of the best in the league, I guess," he said.

OK, maybe 'excitement' was a bit of a stretch.

Having three players in the all-star game is the most Manitoba will have since the 2001 IHL event. That year, three players -- Johan Hedberg, Philippe Boucher and Brett Hauer -- were selected, with Carlyle behind the bench.

Carlyle isn't surprised by the 2005 Moose selections and suggests the work done by Canucks brass Steve Tambellini, Dave Nonis and Moose general manager Craig Heisinger to bring these players to Winnipeg should not be over-looked.

'A GOOD GAUGE'

"It's always a compliment when you have players represent your organization in special events like this which showcase the league," the coach said. "It's a good gauge on the level of player we were able to acquire this year for our fans."

On the subject of being over-looked, Carlyle admits there should be some other Moose players (say, Lee Goren, Alex Auld, and Peter Sarno) making the trip to New Hampshire for Valentine's Day.

"When your team has success, there are personal achievements that spread out throughout the team, and these players are among those," Carlyle said.

Kesler was a little less diplomatic, singling out the previously mentioned snubs who he believes have earned a spot.

"It's pretty amazing that we could have that many guys going," the Livonia, Mich.-native said. "It says a lot about our team and how well we're developing."


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