The 2019 NHL Skills Competition was presented last night from San Jose. There was, as usual, a full slate of events with Devils All-Star Kyle Palmieri taking part in the Shot Accuracy event. The winner of each event would take home $25,000. We had a few repeat winners from years past in a few events.
After the player introductions, which were done by divisional team, the Skills Competition was off an running. Up first was the Fastest Skater event featuring Kendall Coyne Schofield of the US Women’s National Team (she became the first-ever woman to compete in the NHL Skills Competition), finishing with a time of 14.346, Miro Heiskanen (Dallas Stars – 13.914), Clayton Keller (Arizona Coyotes – 14.526), Elias Petterson (Vancouver Canucks – 13.930), Cam Atkinson (Columbus Blue Jackets – 14.125), Jack Eichel (Buffalo Sabres – 13.582), Mat Barzal (New York Islanders – 13.780) and your winner for the third straight year, Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers with a winning time of 13.378.
The Puck Control event was next. This one consists of three parts: the stickhandling, cone control and the gates. Stickhandling is through a series of pucks set up in a straight line that the players had to stickhandle through and the cone control features players carrying the pucks around pylons. The gates sees each player trying to lift the puck through lighted gates of three varying heights.
Patrick Kane was first and the Blackhawks All-Star finished with a time of 28.611 seconds. Petterson was next finishing in 43.622 seconds. Jeff SKinner of the Sabres finished the course in 35.407 while Mark Scheifele of the Winnipeg Jets completed it in 32.161. Gabriel Landeskog of the Colorado Avalanche had a time of 33.425, Claude Giroux of the Flyers finished it in 30.270 seconds and John Tavares of the Maple Leafs in 35.210. The winner for the second straight year, though, was Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames with an amazing time of 27.045 seconds. He had less trouble with the gates portion of the event, which allowed him to finish with such a quick time.
The goalies got in on the action as the Save Streak event was next. This one saw goalies facing consecutive breakaways from members of the opposing division come at them in waves. They basically had to stop as many shots as they could facing the eight shooters. The division captains went last and if they were stopped, the streak would continue for as long as the goalie could fend off the shots.
Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators was first versus the Pacific Division and finished with a streak of two. Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Lightning went next, setting the early standard against the Metro Division. He made eight straight saves for the early lead. Kyle Palmieri was stopped on his attempt as a shooter. John Gibson of the Anaheim Ducks was next against the Central Division. He finished with a streak of three. Braden Holtby of the Capitals made two straight saves against the Atlantic Division shooters.
In the next round of goalies, Devan Dubnyk of the Minnesota Wild made seven straight saves against the Pacific Division, nearly tying Vasilevskiy’s top record. Jimmy Howard of the Detroit Red Wings was next, stopping two Metropolitan Division shooters. Palmieri was stopped for the second save in that streak.
The defending champ, Marc-Andre Fleury of the Vegas Golden Knights was next and stopped six straight Central Division stars, which meant that we would not get a repeat champ in this event.
Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers would go on to win it, stopping twelve Atlantic Division All-Stars. Lundqvist is the oldest All-Star participating in the game and he came away with the victory in this event.
The Premier Passer event was next and this one is a little bit tricky for the players. The three parts are the breakout pass, the mini nets (which saw players having to saucer pucks into small nets set up behind obstacles – a hard proposition which is very hard and made for some tedious moments watching on TV) and the target passing.
Erik Karlsson of the hometown Sharks was first up. He finished the course with a time of 1:58.824. That time should tell you what we are dealing with in terms of the difficulty here. It took Mikko Rantanen of the Avs 2:17.379 to finish, Sebastian Aho of the Hurricanes finished in 1:18.530 while Ryan O’Reilly of the St. Louis Blues finished in 1:25.897. Thomas Chabot of the Ottawa Senators completed it in 1:40.568. Leon Draisaitl of the Oilers was next with the eventual winning time of 1:09.088. Roman Josi of the Predators finished in 1:47.128 and Keith Yandle of the Florida Panthers was done in 1:34.611.
The Hardest Shot competition was next up and this one is pretty straight forward. Seth Jones of the Blue Jackets kicked the first round off with a 99.4 MPH shot. John Carlson of the Caps hit 102.8 for his eventual winning shot. Steven Stamkos of the Lightning hit 96.2 MPH and Brent Burns of the Sharks missed the net.
In the second round, Burns hit 100.6 MPH, Stamkos 93.1 MPH, Jones 95.1 MPH and Colonia, New Jersey-native Carlson, 100.8. Carlson won with his first shot’s 102.8 MPH mark.
The final event of the evening was the Accuracy Shooting which featured Palmieri. David Pastrnak of the Bruins won this one with a time of 11.309. Palmieri went second and posted a 20.209 time. Drew Doughty of the LA Kings finished in 13.501, Auston Matthews (who switched from his Maple Leafs jersey into a Patrick Marleau All-Star jersey to honor his teammate, who used to play for the Sharks) posted a time of 31.256, Blake Wheeler of the Winnipeg Jets finished in 18.585 while Kris Letang of the Penguins got a 12.683 mark – just off the pace Pastrnak had set. Nikita Kucherov of the Lightning completed the contest in 19.076 and Joe Pavelski of the Sharks finished with a time of 14.423.
Overall, it was a great night of action and congrats to all of the All-Stars participating. Tomorrow we will have the actual All-Star Game recap up for you with coverage of how Kyle Palmieri does.