Last-ing memory for Kessel

Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel is just happy to be an all-star, even if he was picked last in the...

Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel is just happy to be an all-star, even if he was picked last in the draft. (DAVE ABEL/QMI Agency)

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:01 PM ET

TORONTO - Phil Kessel thought it better to be picked last than not to be picked at all.

“When I was a kid, I would never have dreamed of being here,” said Kessel, taking it in stride when chosen last on Friday night as the best NHL players divided their two teams for Sunday’s all-star game.

“Hopefully the fans in Toronto are happy to see me in the game. I’ll play well in the game for them.”

Leafs linemate Tyler Bozak was quick to tweet about the new Honda CRX and the $20,000 US charity prize that Kessel was given as a consolation for sitting unclaimed the longest in the player pool at Raleigh, N.C.

Text messages came flowing in from other Leafs as well.

“They were all just asking about the car,” said Kessel. “They’re all on (all-star break) trips and stuff. I was supposed to go with a bunch of guys on vacation.”

Star quality

Kessel wouldn’t be the first Leaf to go as an all-star game afterthought and then have a big game in the mid-season showcase. Twenty years ago this month, Vince Damphousse arrived in Chicago as the only Leaf representative on a bad Toronto team and had a four-goal day to win MVP honours in a game broadcast around the world to Allied servicemen during the first Gulf War.

Mats Sundin had four-point games twice and is the most recent Leaf to get two goals in the contest.

Only 12 Leafs have ever scored in an all-star game since the format changed in 1968, so the Stanley Cup winner no longer played the all-stars. They are Paul Henderson, Darryl Sittler, Lanny McDonald, Rick Vaive, Miroslav Frycer, Gary Leeman, Damphousse, Sundin, Dave Andreychuk, Doug Gilmour, Gary Roberts and Dmitry Yushkevich.

Only four Leaf goalies have ever been chosen or voted in: Wayne Thomas, Felix Potvin, Curtis Joseph and Ed Belfour.

Dukes and hazards

The Toronto Marlies split back-to-back games this weekend, winning 5-2 at Syracuse on Friday and then coming back to Ricoh and dropping a 3-1 decision on Saturday to the Manitoba Moose.

On Friday, they had some welcome scoring from forward Fabian Brunnstrom. After five games with no points, Brunnstrom had his first two Marlie goals to go with three assists for five points after eight games. Reading Royals (ECHL) call-up Matt Caruana, from Orono, Ont., had a goal and assist on Friday as well. Ben Scrivens had the win and the first-star nod with 45 saves.

Caruana added another assist on Saturday, with Toronto’s only goal coming from defenceman Korbinian Holzer.

Jussi Rynnas was pulled after three Manitoba goals on six shots and was replaced by Scrivens, who shut the visitors out the rest of the way on 12 shots.

Nazem Kadri and Marcel Mueller were minus 2 for the Marlies, while Bill Sweatt, the forward the Leafs didn’t sign after he was part of the Viktor Stalberg trade with Chicago, was scoreless and a minus one for Vancouver’s farm team.

The AHL is now on its all-star game break, with defenceman Keith Aulie representing Toronto at Monday’s game in Hershey, Pa.


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