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Golden Knights’ Mark Stone savors first trip to All-Star Game

Knowing that it was unlikely he would be selected, Mark Stone used to plan a vacation for the weekend of the All-Star Game.

The Golden Knights captain relaxed on the beach and went shopping in Miami on one of his trips. Another time, he visited New York and watched a Broadway show along with a Knicks game.

“Did Disney one year, which was a lot of fun,” Stone said. “I like to stay somewhat active but still kind of be able to unwind at the same time.”

Despite a resume that includes seven straight 20-goal seasons and a reputation as one of the NHL’s top defensive forwards, Stone was annually bypassed for the all-star festivities in favor of teammates with a higher Q-rating.

But Stone earned his long-overdue recognition this season.

The right wing was selected to his first All-Star Game and will be a hometown favorite during the skills competition and three-on-three tournament Friday and Saturday at T-Mobile Arena.

“I’ve always wanted to be at these events. I’m obviously really excited, even more so the fact that it’s here in Vegas,” Stone said. “It’s just another event for Vegas to show how big of a hockey market it’s become. It’s going to be another feather in the cap for Vegas to prove just how loyal and how much they love the team. I can’t wait.”

The All-Star Game selection process, which requires one representative from every team, means notable players often are left off the rosters.

Stone was overshadowed his first four seasons in Ottawa by star defenseman Erik Karlsson and missed out in 2019 despite having a career year. Defenseman Thomas Chabot was selected to represent the Senators for that game.

In 2020, goalie Marc-Andre Fleury had the Knights’ spot in the Pacific Division on lockdown until he withdrew. The league then selected left wing Max Pacioretty to his first All-Star Game as an injury replacement for Anaheim’s Jakob Silfverberg.

But Stone, 29, has blossomed since being named the Knights’ first captain Jan. 13, 2021.

Not only are his expressive goal celebrations widely promoted across the league’s social media channels, he would have been a leading candidate to play for Team Canada at the Winter Olympics had NHL players participated.

“I was actually surprised when I asked him. I had assumed that he played in one before,” said Knights coach Pete DeBoer, who will lead the Pacific Division squad. “It’s way overdue. I’m glad he’s getting it. I know he’s excited about it. Couldn’t ask for a better first-time all-star than to play it at home in your home rink in front of your home fans.”

Stone was chosen for his first All-Star Game even though he’s endured an injury-plagued campaign, much like his team. He sustained a lower-body injury in the second game that sidelined him for a month and has missed 19 of 46 games.

Defensively, Stone is tops in the NHL among regulars averaging 5.36 takeaways per 60 minutes. And he’s still producing at a point-per-game pace with eight goals and 20 assists.

“He’s a star in the league,” Knights defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “You watch this guy every single day and you get a real appreciation for what he does. There’s a lot of things that he can do that a lot of players can’t. There’s a reason why he’s as dominant as he is on both sides of the puck.”

Stone has never attended an NHL All-Star Game, but said he enjoyed watching the skills competition while growing up in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

The NHL announced the seven events for Friday’s skills competition, including two that will take place on the Strip. Stone is hoping to participate in one of those rather than the traditional competitions such as the hardest shot or breakaway challenge.

“I don’t want to do the trick shots and trick skills because I don’t have a ton of those in the bag,” Stone said. “I think I said if they’re going to make me do that to change me to do the fastest skater.

“People have told me that I’m slow since I was 6 years old. So I almost want to do it just to prove I’m not as slow as everybody thinks.”

A two-time finalist for the Selke Trophy as the league’s top defensive forward, Stone expects the All-Star Game experience to be similar to his trips to the NHL awards show.

Both provide a rare opportunity to socialize with other top players and their families in a casual setting.

“The first awards show I went to I got to spend a night out with (Washington star Alex) Ovechkin, which I thought was one of the coolest things in the world being a hockey fan,” Stone said. “Now being almost 30, I’m excited to meet some of the younger guys. I’ve played on a team with (Edmonton’s Connor) McDavid, so I know him.

“Again, just meet (Edmonton’s Leon) Draisaitl or other guys from the Pacific, but also the other divisions. I think that’s probably going to be the coolest thing.”

The Knights’ two representatives are almost certain to start for the Pacific Division on home ice, and Stone hoped DeBoer will allow him and Pietrangelo to choose their linemate for the three-on-three event.

Stone joked that he wants McDavid or Draisaitl, then teased the possibility of skating with San Jose forward Timo Meier to create another memorable moment in the Knights’ rivalry with the Sharks.

“I think he’s been our best player since he showed up here,” Knights winger Jonathan Marchessault said of Stone. “He’s a great leader, great guy off the ice. I think as a teammate of him, we definitely love the fact that he’ll represent us over there. He’s going to do a great job for sure.”

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.

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