Amidst all the struggles and strife surrounding the Quad-City Mallards this season, there's been one shining bright spot.
Willie Raskob has been a standout despite the Mallards having the league's worst record and mired in a franchise-worst 13-game losing streak. The rookie was recognized for his efforts by being named as an all-star last week.
"For me, it helps my mindset, puts me in a better place to think back to what was going right," Raskob said. "When you're in spots like this it's tough. All you're thinking about is what's going wrong, what's not happening for us, a little woe is me.
"I don't know how it affects other players but for myself it's good to change that thought process. Right now we're obviously in a slump, personally, as a team, everyone's in a little bit of a slump. I think it's something we all have to look at and change the mindset."
Raskob will join 27 other players from around the league at the 2018 CCM/ECHL All-Star Classic Monday in Indianapolis. The game, which will be played at noon, is a 3-on-3 tournament between four teams representing the four divisions in the league. It will air on the NHL Network.
While the Mallards are desperately searching for a win, Raskob has been one of the few highlights. He was acquired by the Mallards in October after playing one game with the Worcester Railers. He is currently tied for third among all rookies with 18 assists, a number that is tied for ninth among all defensemen in the league.
Raskob also has one goal this season for 19 points in 31 games.
"Coming into my first pro year, I wanted to have a good year, I wanted to get used to what the pro game is like," Raskob said. "I've always been told my game suits the pro game a little bit more and while it's been frustrating on a personal and team level, it's nice to be recognized as someone new to the league. I'm not a name that was known to everyone coming out of college ... to have coaches and other players think that what I've done at this point is good enough to be in the all-star game is something to be proud of."
The all-star teams were decided by a vote from coaches, team captains, media relations directors, broadcasters and members of the media. Though maybe not a true representation of the league's best talent — all but one of the players are first-time selections, 13 are rookies and every team has at least one representative — the honor still shows how much of an impact Raskob has made in his first year.
"I thought we had guys on our team that were having better years than me," Raskob said. "When (goaltender Ivan Kulbakov) was here he was playing out of his mind and (forward Sam Warning) got off to a real hot start scoring all those goals ... it's not something I was thinking about as all. It's a good feather in the cap. I appreciate everyone who voted for me and it's a good feeling to be recognized."
Getting a chance to play with some of the league's best young talent, including fellow rookie and league point-leader Justin Danforth from Cincinnati, provides Raskob an opportunity to continue to grow his game, something that might end up helping the Mallards as the second half of the season approaches.
"It's really exciting to go play with guys that I've played against that I appreciate going against every night," Raskob said. "It's always fun going against guys like that and see where you stack up."
More all-star news: With the all-star game less than a week away, the finer details are coming together. The league announced Tuesday that former professional race car driver Tony Stewart will serve as a celebrity coach at the game. Stewart adds more name recognition to the event, which already includes hockey legend Wayne Gretzky.
Matt Aiello of the Greenville Swamp Rabbits was named the athletic trainer and Chris Burke of the Cincinnati Cyclones was named the equipment manager for the game, joining George Bullock, Jr., and Darren Flinchem, who serve in those respective roles for the Fuel.
Tyler Puddifant and Stephen Thomson were selected as the referees Tuesday and Jake Davis and Jordan Knox were named as the linesmen for the game.
Trending up: While the Mallards can't win a game right now, the Colorado Eagles can't seem to lose. After putting together the second-longest win streak in league history with 17 straight victories last year and following that up with a Kelly Cup championship, the Eagles look like they've found the secret to success yet again.
The Eagles have won five straight games and have gone nine straight without a regulation loss to take a commanding nine-point lead in both the Mountain Division and the Western Conference. At 25-5-4, the Eagles currently hold a one-point lead over the Florida Everblades for most points in the league.
This week: The Mallards host the Indy Fuel at the TaxSlayer Center on Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m.
Friday is $2 Dogs/$2 Beers night presented by 97X. Saturday is Country Night presented by WLLR. All fans in attendance will have the chance to win prizes, including tickets to Blake Shelton and Brad Paisley concerts and seats for the World's Toughest Rodeo and Boot Barn gift cards. The Dani Lynn Howe Band will perform live after the game.
The Mallards are 3-2-0 against the Fuel this season.