Phil Kessel is the NHL's first star for the first week of the season.
The Toronto Maple Leafs winger had five goals and eight points in three games in the opening 11 days of the year, putting him into a tie among the league leaders in scoring.
Leafs coach Ron Wilson said Monday he's most encouraged by how Kessel has been playing in his own end.
"Statistically it's pretty clear the way he's played," Wilson said. "There were some great performances obviously throughout the league, but Phil's done it in every game so I think it's deserved.
"Phil's shown a willingness to get in the grind and has worked really hard in the couple of games where we've had those situations. [It's] maturity, that's all."
Kessel was typically understated when he heard the news but said he is enjoying the fact he's getting more chances to play late in games.
"It means a lot," Kessel said. "You always want to be out there in those situations and try to get the win for your team."
Wilson added that Kessel has even intimated he wants to play on the penalty kill, something that may come down the line.
"He wants to participate a little bit on the PK, and I've told him, I'm not going to put you out on the PK unless you're getting a 200-foot game going," Wilson said. "It's not going to be the cart before the horse ... and that would be getting the job done defensively 5-on-5 and then we'll think about PK."
Kessel beat out John Tavares, David Legwand and Kari Lehtonen (among others) for the first star honours. The league's three stars will be officially announced later in the day.
Leafs lineup against the Colorado Avalanche:
Lupul - Bozak - Kessel MacArthur - Grabovski - Kulemin Frattin - Lombardi - Armstrong Steckel - Dupuis - Brown
Gunnarsson - Phaneuf Liles - Schenn Franson - Komisarek