OTTAWA – Phil Kessel is heading back to the NHL All-Star game, and this time it's hard to imagine him left standing until the end of the draft.
The Toronto Maple Leafs' forward was one of 36 players added to the Jan. 29 game by the league's hockey operations department Thursday. He'll be joined in Ottawa this month by linemate Joffrey Lupul and Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf, who was already voted in by fans.
Last year, Kessel was the last selection in the inaugural drafting of the teams — a somewhat embarrassing moment that included Capitals star Alex Ovechkin chuckling and taking photos of Kessel standing on the stage alone.
No one is laughing now.
Kessel has been among the league's most prolific players. He entered play Thursday second in scoring with 48 points, two behind Philadelphia Flyers forward Claude Giroux, another newly minted All-Star.
The top nine scorers have all been selected for the showcase, including Tampa's Steven Stamkos, Vancouver's Daniel Sedin, Chicago's Marian Hossa, Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin and Ottawa's Jason Spezza along with Giroux, Kessel and Lupul.
Sedin will be joined by twin brother Henrik and defenseman Alexander Edler. The Canucks, Leafs, Bruins, Rangers and Blackhawks all have three representatives.
The event will be preceded again by a draft to determine the teams. The captains and assistants in charge of selections will be announced next week.
In addition to the main All-Stars, 12 rookies have also been invited to participate in the skills competition, including Colin Greening of the Senators, Cody Hodgson of the Canucks and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Oilers, who is recovering from a separated left shoulder.