2016 AHL All-Star Challenge primer: Need to know

It doesn't seem as if the concussion and then a bout of appendicitis had any lasting effect on Maple Leafs prospect William Nylander as he showed off his skate and puck movement at the AHL All-Star Skills Competition.

The NHL isn’t the only league in the midst of its all-star break (games resume Tuesday). The American Hockey League’s all-star game, named the AHL All-Star Challenge, gets underway Monday night.

Here’s what you need to know.

Where is it?
This year’s festivities have been held in Syracuse, N.Y., home of Tampa Bay’s farm team the Syracuse Crunch. The games will be played at War Memorial Arena.

When is it?
The first game starts at 7:18 p.m. ET on Sportsnet.

What’s the format?
Like its parent league, the AHL has done something new this year, pitting its four divisions against each other in a mini-tournament. There are differences, however.

While the NHL played three 20-minute games (each split into two periods of 10 minutes), the AHL version will have seven total games.

Each division (Atlantic, North, Central, Pacific) will play each other in a round robin, with the two teams with the best record moving on to face each other in the championship.

The round robin games will all be nine minutes long, split into two halves. The first half gets played at 4-on-4, the second half moves to 3-on-3.

The championship game is only one six-minute period played entirely at 3-on-3.

The AHL has a full infographic explaining the format here.

Who’s actually going to be playing?
AHL all-star games typically include a range of top prospects, to veterans on the cusp of playing in the NHL. This year is no exception.

There are nine rookies set to play, and 10 former first-round picks.

Some prospects to watch out for.

William Nylander is back after getting hurt at the World Juniors, then suffering a bout with appendicitis. He is one of three Toronto Marlies who will skate in the event, with Josh Leivo and T.J. Brennan (a defenceman currently leading the AHL in points).

The Marlies will also be represented behind the bench, with rookie head coach Sheldon Keefe having been named as the coach of the North Division.

Michael McCarron, the 6-foot-6 power forward who made his NHL debut with the Montreal Canadiens this year, will represent the St. John’s IceCaps along with Mark Barberio, who’s also spent time in the NHL this year.

Hunter Shinkaruk, drafted 22nd overall in 2013 by the Vancouver Canucks, will be there as well.

Connor Hellebuyck was named to the Central Division team, but given that the 22-year-old is busy stealing games for the Winnipeg Jets, he was replaced by teammate Eric Comrie.

Edmonton Oilers fans might want to keep an eye on the Pacific Division, as 22-year-old Laurent Brossoit will share the net with Peter Budaj.

Kerby Rychel, Mikko Rantanen, Nick Ritchie, Derrick Pouliot, Seth Griffith, Nick Cousins, Brandon Montour, Vladislav Kamenev and goaltender Matt Murray are all top prospects in their respective organizations.

Some other names of note:

Rob Schremp, the former Oilers first-round pick, will be playing. Schremp put up 145 points in 57 games in his final OHL season, but struggled to crack an NHL lineup before taking a four-year hiatus playing in various European leagues.

He joined the Portland Pirates (Florida Panthers affiliate)vat the start of this year, and leads the team in points with 33 (17 goals, 16 assists) in 43 games. Worth keeping an eye on.

Kristers Gudlevskis, who you might remember from his 55-save performance against Canada at the Sochi Olympics in 2014, will be representing the Syracuse Crunch.

Michael Leighton, of 2010 Stanley Cup Finals infamy, and Michael Kostka who enjoyed a brief spurt on the Leafs’ top defensive pair in the 2013 season will also be there.

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