December 9, 2014 / 9:44 PM / 3 years ago

Little-known Latvian has unlikely lead in All-Star voting

(Reuters) - Latvian-born forward Zemgus Girgensons is the unlikely runaway leader in National Hockey League All-Star fan voting thanks to massive support from his hockey-crazed nation, according to results released on Tuesday.

Oct 18, 2014; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres center Zemgus Girgensons (28) and Boston Bruins center Carl Soderberg (34) go after a loose puck during the second period at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Girgensons is far from a household name in North America but his supporters back home are determined to see the 20-year-old Riga native play in the annual exhibition alongside the game’s biggest stars.

The Buffalo Sabres forward has received nearly 82 percent of his 803,805 votes from Latvia. That is more than double the next player on the list and over 450,000 more than Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby, who has long been the face of the NHL.

Girgensons, a first round draft pick by Buffalo in 2012 who is playing in his second NHL campaign, has 14 points in 27 games this season and is ranked 142nd overall in scoring.

All-Star voting concludes Jan. 1 and the All-Star Game will be played on Jan. 25 in Columbus, Ohio.

Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto. Editing by xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx.

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