Tyler Johnson, Richard Panik, Mark Barberio, Radko Gudas, Brett Connolly.
Yes, I'd say Nikita Nesterov and Vladislav Namestnikov are now in pretty good company.
The American Hockey League released their rosters for the Eastern Conference and Western Conference All-Star teams today, and the Syracuse Crunch was proud to announce that both Nesterov and Namestnikov will be representing their team at the event in Utica, N.Y at the end of January. Out of the five teams in the Crunch's Northeast Division, only one other--the Springfield Falcons--has two representatives.
In 2013, Johnson, Panik, Barberio, and Gudas represented the Crunch as All-Stars during the first season of the Tampa Bay/Syracuse affiliation. In 2014, Brett Connolly (and Crunch head coach Rob Zettler) represented the team. The 2014 Classic differed in format from both 2013 and this year's, and not every AHL team was represented.
This year, each conference in the league has a team, and each team comprises of 23 players: 12 forwards, eight defensemen and three goaltenders. Rosters were determined by committees of AHL coaches. All 30 AHL teams are represented by at least one All-Star.
Nesterov and Namestnikov are two of 17 AHL All-Stars named who have appeared in the National Hockey League already this season. From the Crunch's official release:
Namestnikov, 22, has 15 points (7g, 8a) in 14 games with the Crunch this season and seven points (3g, 4a) in 24 games with the Tampa Bay Lightning. He began the 2014-15 campaign with Tampa Bay, recording his first NHL points Oct. 13 with a goal and an assist vs. Montreal. Since joining Syracuse Dec. 5, Namestnikov is the Crunch's leading scorer and the team is 11-2-1-0. He has points in 11 of his 14 games, including three multi-point performances, three power-play goals and two game-winning scores. The third-year pro has 84 points in (33g, 51a) in 114 career AHL regular season games, plus six points (2g, 4a) in 17 Calder Cup playoff games. The 6-foot, 182-pound center made his NHL debut Feb. 9, 2014, amid a co-MVP season for Syracuse during which he posted 48 points (19g, 29a) in 56 contests and a team-best 14 multi-point games. The Zhukovskiy, Russia native was selected in the first round of the 2011 NHL Draft, 27th overall, by the Lightning. Namestnikov's father, John, was an All-Star for Syracuse in 1996-97.
Nesterov, 21, appeared in each of Syracuse's first 32 games before a Dec. 31 promotion to Tampa Bay when he made his NHL debut for the Lightning. He is plus-1 in two games with the Lightning, averaging 14 minutes of ice time. The second-year pro is plus-4 with the Crunch and is the club's top-scoring defenseman with 14 points (3g, 11a). He's provided nine of his points (2g, 9a) on the power play, second most on the team. Two of Nesterov's goals are game winners, including Oct. 24 in overtime at Worcester and Dec. 10 at Springfield. During his rookie season in the AHL, the 5-foot-11, 199-pound defenseman totaled 16 points (4g, 12a) in 54 games for Syracuse. The Chelyabinsk, Russia native was selected in the fifth round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, 148th overall, by the Lightning.
Nesterov is still up with Tampa Bay at the moment. If he has not been returned to the Crunch by the time the Classic happens, another AHL player will be selected to go in his place. It won't be known if that player will be from the Crunch or another team until the move has to be made. The same thing occurs if Namestnikov returns to Tampa Bay.
The 2015 AHL All-Star Classic is presented by Turning Stone Resort Casino and will take place at the Utica Memorial Auditorium. The two-day event features both an All-Star Skills Competition at 8 p.m. on Jan. 25 and the All-Star Game at 7 p.m. on Jan. 26. Tickets are still available and can be purchased in person at the Utica Memorial Auditorium box office (10-4 ET), by phone at 800-693-8000 or online at www.ticketmaster.com.