Tonight saw the annual pre-NHL All-Star Game festivities known as the All-Star Skills Competition.
This year’s edition came to us from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, home of the Vegas Golden Knights.
It featured events old and new and a new face from the Devils in the form of Jack Hughes. Hughes, a first time NHL All-Star, and the youngest participant in this year’s All-Star weekend, competed in two events.
The event was televised on ESPN and there was a live blog on NHL.com (written by NHL.com Editor-in-Chief Bill Price and NHL.com senior writer Dan Rosen.
The Fastest Skater was the first event. This, of course, is a race against the clock as skaters did a lap around the rink and tried to record the fastest time against each other.
It featured Evgeny Kuznetsov of the Washington Capitals, who came in eighth with a time of 14.559 seconds; Dylan Larkin of the Detroit Red Wings (seventh place – 14.116 seconds); Kyle Connor of the Winnipeg Jets (sixth place – 13.851 seconds); Cale Makar, Colorado Avalanche (fifth place – 13.834 seconds); Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers (fourth place – 13.690 seconds); Chris Kreider of the New York Rangers (third place – 13.664 seconds); Adrian Kempe of the Los Angeles Kings (second place – 13.664) and winner Jordan Kyrou of the St. Louis Blues, who won with a time of 13.550 seconds.
The second event was the Save Streak. This saw shooters from one division taking breakaways on the two goalies from their counterpart division in their conference.
So, Jack Hughes, shooting for the Metropolitan Division, was in the rotation shooting against Jack Campbell (Toronto Maple Leafs) and Andrei Vasilevskiy (Tampa Bay Lightning) of the Atlantic Division. The objective is to see which goalie can put together a streak of saves. The goalie with the longest streak at the end wins.
The Atlantic Division goalies won with a combined streak of nine shooters stopped against the Metro Division shooters, which included Hughes. The Pacific Division duo of Thatcher Demko (Vancouver Canucks) and John Gibson (Anaheim Ducks) combined for three straight saves taking on the Central shooters. The Central Division goaltenders – Cam Talbot (Minnesota Wild) and Juuse Saros (Nashville Predators) also topped out at three saves in a row versus the Pacific shooters. The Metro Division goalies (Fredrick Anderson – Carolina Hurricanes and Tristan Jarry – Pittsburgh Penguins) had a top streak of two against the Atlantic shooters.
The next event was a new one created specifically for the Las Vegas landscape.
It was the NHL Fountain Face-Off, which was held in the Fountains of Bellagio – a casino on the Vegas Strip.
In this one, similar to the event at last year’s St. Louis event where shooters shot from locations around the arena, shooters stood on a platform in the fountain and shot pucks into a series of four or five goals also floating on platforms in the fountain in the quickest time possible.
In the first round, Roman Josi of the Predators moved on with a time of 11.855 seconds. Zach Werenski of the Columbus Blue Jackets came in second with a time of 15.16. Finishing one and two, they moved on to the final round.
The rest of the field saw Jocelyn Lamoureux-Davison finish third with a time of 16.253 seconds; Nick Suzuki oof the Montreal Canadiens finish fourth with a time of 22.155 seconds; Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers (a 22.688 second time); next was Mark Stone of the Golden Knights (24.696 seconds); then Jordan Eberle of the Seattle Kraken (a time of 27.934) and then Jonathan Huberdeau of the Florida Panthers who finished with a time of 39.9 seconds.
In the final round, Werenski won with a time of 25.634 while Josi was runner-up with a time of 47.454.
The Hardest Shot competition came up next. Victor Hedman of the Lightning won the contest with a top shot of 103.2 miles per hour. He defeated defending champion Adam Pelech of the New York Islanders, who had a top shot measurement of 102.2 MPH. Hedman’s second shot would have beaten Pelech as well, as that one registered 102.7 MPH.
Tom Wilson – who replaced Alex Ovechkin on the All-Star roster from the Caps due to Ovechkin ending up on the COVID list – came in third with a 101.1 MPH shot and Timo Meier of the San Jose Sharks was fourth with a top shot of 100.1 MPH. (Note that each shooter took two shots and the hardest one was that counted as the top shot for that shooter).
Next up was the Breakaway Challenge. Hughes participated in and played a big part in this event.
This event was more about showcasing the personalities of the shooters than anything else.
Kirill Kaprizov of the Wild was first and he did his best Ovechkin impression, donning an Ovi Caps jersey as well as shooting and celebrating like the Capitals superstar as well.
Jack Hughes’ routine saw him enact a full magic routine. He put small replicas of his jersey, stick and a pair of gloves into a human-sized wooden box. He skated around the box once and opened the door and a youth hockey player dressed in Hughes’ Devils uniform emerged.
Dubbed Hughes’ “mini me” ala Austin Powers, the pint-sized skater took a breakaway and scored on goaltender Manon Rheaume with the move Hughes used on Marc-Andre Fleury on opening night. Both Jack and his young doppelganger celebrated by tossing their sticks into the crowd in another homage to Hughes’ opening night heroics.
Hughes got perfect 10’s across the board from all of the judges (except for former NHL defenseman Paul Coffey, who held up a nine).
Of note also, was that later in the evening, Mark Messier, who was doing commentator for ESPN, said that he was most impressed during the night by the skill of the players and singled out Hughes’ skating ability and edging.
Alex Pietrangelo of the Golden Knights won this event in the end.
The penultimate event was the NHL 21 in ‘22 event winner, which was taped on Thursday on Las Vegas Boulevard. This was another new Vegas-specific event created for this year’s event.
Five shooters shot at a panel of a deck of oversized playing cards.
The shooters were Joe Pavelski of the Dallas Stars, Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Brady Tkachuk of the Ottawa Senators, Nazem Kadri of the Colorado Avalanche and Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Each player took shots at the cards and tried “to get a hand of 21 without going bust. Any player who hit 21 would advance to the final round, which was high card.”
In keeping with the gambling theme, each player drew cards to decide the order of the shooting and alternated.
Once a card was hit, it was removed from the board.
NHL.com writer David Satriano reported that Pavelski hit a king and an ace on two shots (his first two attempts) to move to the finals. Kadri hit a queen and an ace to move on.
Matthews got a three, an eight and a king to advance while Stamkos hit a two, nine, two and an eight. Tkachuk got a two, a nine and a queen.
All five players were in the finals and, there Pavelski and Stamkos hit aces. With only two aces left on the board, this eliminated the other three shooters.
With Pavelski and Stamkos in a duel, both then hit the last two remaining kings. This brought us to a final showdown.
Pavelski hit a queen while Stamkos hit a four while aiming to hit the last queen. With that, Pavelski was the winner.
That brought us to our final contest, the always-exciting Accuracy Shooting event.
Sebastian Aho of the Carolina Hurricanes won this one, hitting all four targets (which are back to being the exploding Styrofoam-plastic ones instead of the light up panels that they used the last few years) in a time of 10.937 seconds.
Rounding out the field was Jake Guentzel of the Penguins (12.017 seconds), Troy Terry of the Anaheim Ducks (13.491 seconds), Rasmus Dahlin of the Buffalo Sabres (17.205 seconds), Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames (17.811 seconds), Clayton Keller of the Arizona Coyotes (18.997 seconds), Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins (20.947 seconds), Jonathan Marchessault of the Golden Knights (27.782 seconds) and Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers, who brought up the rear taking 36.543 to hit the four targets.
Overall, it was a pretty fun night as the NHL’s best put their skills on display.
We will have coverage of the 2022 NHL All-Star Game for you tomorrow. The game starts at 3 PM and will be televised on ABC here in the United States.
The Metro Division and Jack Hughes will be playing in the first 20-minute mini game against the Pacific Division to kick off the game. We’ll see you then!