LOS ANGELES -- Sunday's NHL All-Star Game stands to be a mirror of how the game is trending. In a league that was once dominated by size and strength, the trend towards youth, skill and speed looks to be showcased.
The rosters are gravitating away from established veterans in favor of young stars -- the names fans are accustomed to seeing like Jaromir Jagr and Joe Thornton have been replaced by the likes of second year star Connor McDavid -- the Pacific Division captain -- and rookies Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine, the first two selections in the 2016 draft.
Along with the reduced veteran presence, the air of controversy present a year ago is absent from this All-Star Game. Last season, enforcer John Scott was nominated to the team via fan vote through an Internet campaign and after league efforts to exclude him from the event failed, Scott won the Most Valuable Player Award to become a cult hero of sorts.
This year, the legitimate best of the best will be lacing them up for the 3-on-3 contest between representatives of all four divisions, including league-leading scorer Sidney Crosby, reigning MVP Patrick Kane and last year's Norris Trophy winning defenseman Drew Doughty.
The usual slew of last-minute defections are absent, only Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin will miss the game due to injury. Columbus Coach John Tortorella had to defer at the last minute due to a family matter. Other than those two, it's front and center for the league's galaxy of stars as the NHL grabs the spotlight in Hollywood.
"It's a huge honor, you want to soak it all in," said Matthews when named to the team earlier this month.
The game will return to last year's 3-on-3 tournament with the format dividing the game into three 20-minute contests. The rosters are composed of 11 players -- six forwards, three defensemen and two goaltenders. The participants in last year's tournament welcomed the change in format with the additional open ice allowing for individual showcasing of skills.
The winners of each semifinal game will meet in the tournament final to determine the overall tournament champion. The fan-elected captains are McDavid, Crosby, Nashville's P.K. Subban and Montreal's Carey Price.
"It's a little bit more exciting then when I went the first time," said Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Justin Faulk. "I think this format will be more fun than the old, slow 5-on-5, it will be a lot more exciting for the fans."
The All-Star Game is nothing new for Crosby and Kane but for Laine, the Jets co-leading goal scorer at only 19 years old is trying to take in his first All-Star experience in stride as he grasps the reality of taking the ice with players he idolized not too long ago.
"It will be great to meet to all the guys there, they are all such great players," Laine said. "It will be great to talk with Crosby and Kane. It took a lot of hard work to get here but it will be a lot of fun."
The one late addition, Columbus' Cam Atkinson who was named to replace Malkin is excited by his first All-Star berth. In an age where the game has lost some if its glamour, it still holds special importance to some. Atkinson considers being a part of the weekend as a validation of his career.
"For personal accolades, it's pretty special," said Atkinson. "To be part of the group of the best players in the world is pretty cool. People had told me I would never make it to this league and to be named to the team shoves it in their face."