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2005 PlanetUSA AHL All-Stars announced

The American Hockey League announced today the PlanetUSA AHL All-Star team roster for the 2005 Dodge AHL All-Star Classic, to be played next month at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, N.H.

The team comprises players born in the United States and Europe; the Canadian team was announced on Wednesday. AHL fans determined the starting lineups of both teams via on-line balloting at theahl.com, while a committee of AHL coaches selected the remainder of the rosters. All 28 teams are represented by at least one All-Star.

Thirteen members of the PlanetUSA team are former first-round draft picks, including Chicago’s Kari Lehtonen (2nd in 2002), Syracuse’s Alexander Svitov (3rd in 2001), Philadelphia’s Joni Pitkanen (4th in 2002) and Rochester’s Thomas Vanek (5th in 2003). All told, 21 of the 46 players scheduled to head to Manchester were chosen in the first round of an NHL Entry Draft; seven more were second-rounders.

Springfield Falcons forward Craig Darby will captain the PlanetUSA team, his fifth career AHL All-Star appearance. Other notable names on the PlanetUSA roster include Rochester’s Ryan Miller, who was the Top Goaltender at last year’s AHL All-Star Skills Competition, and Albany’s Zach Parise and Manitoba’s Ryan Kesler, who won gold medals with the United States at the 2004 World Junior Championships.

The host Manchester Monarchs lead all teams with six selections between the two All-Star squads, although Canadian forwards Yanick Lehoux and Tom Kostopoulos will miss the event due to injury. The defending Calder Cup champion Milwaukee Admirals will have four representatives at the event.

The head coach of the PlanetUSA All-Star team will come from the team with the best points percentage after play on Sunday, January 30. That coach and his Canadian counterpart, Milwaukee’s Claude Noel, will join a list of former AHL All-Star head coaches that includes current NHL bench bosses Peter Laviolette, Bob Hartley, John Tortorella and Barry Trotz.

Of the 328 players to take part in the AHL All-Star Classic since 1995, more than 92 percent have competed in the NHL, including Daniel Briere, Andrew Brunette, Anson Carter, Pavol Demitra, Rick DiPietro, J.P. Dumont, Patrik Elias, Manny Legace, John Madden, Ladislav Nagy, Vaclav Prospal, Martin St. Louis, Marc Savard, Steve Sullivan and Tomas Vokoun.

The 2005 Dodge AHL All-Star Classic will take place at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, N.H., home of the AHL’s Manchester Monarchs. The event gets underway on Sunday, February 13, with the 2005 AHL All-Star Skills Competition at 7:00 p.m. (ET). The annual All-Star Game follows at 7:00 p.m. (ET) on Monday, February 14, and will be televised live nationally on ESPN2 in the United States and on Rogers Sportsnet in Canada.


2005 PLANETUSA AHL ALL-STAR TEAM

Forwards
Sean Bergenheim, Bridgeport
Brandon Bochenski, Binghamton
x-Dustin Brown, Manchester
Craig Darby, Springfield (“C”)
Andy Hilbert, Providence
Ryan Kesler, Manitoba
Mikko Koivu, Houston
x-Zach Parise, Albany
Tomas Plekanec, Hamilton
Tony Salmelainen, Edmonton
Alexander Svitov, Syracuse
x-Thomas Vanek, Rochester

Defensemen
Anton Babchuk, Norfolk
Keith Ballard, Utah
Christian Ehrhoff, Cleveland
Denis Grebeshkov, Manchester
Andrew Hutchinson, Milwaukee
x-Niklas Kronwall, Grand Rapids
x-Joni Pitkanen, Philadelphia
Brian Pothier, Binghamton

Goaltenders
x-Kari Lehtonen, Chicago
Ryan Miller, Rochester
Antero Niittymaki, Philadelphia

Head Coach: TBD
Assistant Coach: TBD
Athletic Trainer: Chris Kingsley, Manchester
Equipment Manager: Mike Holden, Manchester

x-starters


2005 PLANETUSA AHL ALL-STAR TEAM STARTERS

Kari Lehtonen, Goaltender (Chicago Wolves): Living up to the billing after being drafted second overall by Atlanta in 2002, Kari Lehtonen is having another outstanding season for the Chicago Wolves in 2004-05. A member of Finland’s World Cup team in 2004, Lehtonen ranks third in the AHL in minutes played (2,095) and fourth in saves (1,044) while ringing up 21 victories as the workhorse in Chicago’s crease. Lehtonen attended last year’s All-Star Classic, but did not play due to injury.

Niklas Kronwall, Defense (Grand Rapids Griffins): Defenseman Niklas Kronwall is the leading scorer for the Grand Rapids Griffins this season, and is first among league blueliners with 10 goals and 32 points through 41 games. The Stockholm, Sweden, native split his first North American season between the Griffins and NHL Detroit in 2003-04, and was headed to the AHL All-Star Classic before a leg injury cost him most of the year. Kronwall helped Sweden to a silver medal at the 2003 World Championships.

Joni Pitkanen, Defense (Philadelphia Phantoms): Finnish Finnish phenom Joni Pitkanen has adjusted well to the AHL after playing 71 games with the parent Philadelphia Flyers last season. The 2004 NHL All-Rookie Team selection ranked second among first-year NHL’ers in plus/minus (+15) and second among NHL rookie defensemen in points (27) last season, and played for the Eastern Conference in the 2004 YoungStars Game. This year, Pitkanen, 21, has recorded 18 assists and 21 points in 41 games for the Phantoms.

Dustin Brown, Forward (Manchester Monarchs): A native of Ithaca, N.Y., Dustin Brown ranks fourth on the high-powered Monarchs with 45 points in 44 games this season, his first stint in the AHL. The 20-year-old forward earned the OHL’s Scholastic Player of the Year Award in each of his three seasons with Guelph (OHL) before being drafted 13th overall by Los Angeles in 2003. Brown skated in 31 NHL games with the Kings as a rookie, missing most of the year with an ankle injury.

Zach Parise, Forward (Albany River Rats): A finalist for the Hobey Baker Award as the top player in U.S. college hockey in both 2003 and 2004, Zach Parise was New Jersey’s first pick in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. Parise, born in Minneapolis when dad J.P. played for the NHL’s North Stars, tallied 116 points in his two years at North Dakota and was an All-American in 2004. Currently second among AHL rookies with 31 points, he was named MVP of the 2004 World Junior Championships, leading the U.S. to gold.

Thomas Vanek, Forward (Rochester Americans): The fifth overall pick in the 2003 draft, Thomas Vanek starred for two seasons at the University of Minnesota, earning tournament MVP honors as the Gophers won the NCAA title in 2003. This year, the native of Vienna, Austria, is tied for the AHL rookie lead with 18 goals, including 10 power-play markers, in 44 games. He was named the CCM Vector/AHL Player of the Week for Nov. 22-28 after recording seven points in four games.