The first half of this NHL season has been unusually heavy for everyone who finds a home in the sport of hockey. The COVID-19 pandemic has continued affecting the game, the Chicago Blackhawks scandal shocked the sport to its core, and racism has continued to show its face in a sport that many use as a way to escape from reality.
Tonight, however, is all about fun. The NHL Skills Competition is an opportunity for the biggest stars in the game to show off their skills and, more importantly, remind everyone why we love the sport. Let’s take a look at the seven exciting events that our favourite superstars will be competing in tonight and predict who will shine amongst the brightest stars in our game.
Predictions For the NHL All-Star Skills Competition
Fastest Skater Competition
McDavid’s the odds-on favourite for this event, and rightfully so. He won the event three times between 2017-19 and was just 0.040 seconds short of beating Mathew Barzal in 2020. The only other defending champion in the field is Larkin, who won the event in 2016. Look for both Larkin and newcomer Cale Makar to make waves here, but nobody’s knocking the king off his mountain this year.
Winner: Connor McDavid
Save Streak Competition
The Save Streak event made its debut in 2018, and none of the defending champions are in the field this time around. For the competition, the goaltender with the longest “save streak” will go home with the crown. Lots of great goalies are in this contest, but none are statistically better than Andersen. Freddy is currently second in the league in Goals Against Average and third in Save Percentage. It feels like a crime to pick against Vasilevskiy, but Andersen will remind Maple Leaf’s fans how good he really is.
Winner: Frederik Andersen
Fountain Face-Off Competition
This event is one of two newcomers to the Skills Competiton lineup. The NHL has set up a “rink” on the Bellagio Fountains, where players will be attempting to shoot pucks into five targets in a set duration. On paper, this event seems similar to the “NHL Shooting Stars” event from 2020 in St. Louis.
For USA Hockey fans, the inclusion of Lamoureux-Davidson is very exciting. She played a vital role in the U.S. women’s national ice hockey team’s gold medal victory in 2018 (against Canada, no less) and also won two silver medals in 2010 and 2014. Ultimately, every participant is on equal footing for this unique event. Accuracy will be the key to success in what is sure to be an absolute spectacle, and what a spectacle it will be when the hometown hero takes home the crown.
Winner: Mark Stone
Hardest Shot Competition
If the NHL is looking to boost ratings, then this is the perfect time for a surprise entrant. Imagine for a moment that, at the conclusion of this competition, the arena lights fade to black, and out of nowhere Zdeno Chara and a (somehow healthy) Shea Weber come to steal the show. While that would certainly keep fans on the edge of their seat, it is an improbable fantasy.
Wilson winning this competition would certainly gleam a reaction from fans across the hockey world, but Hedman will win his first Hardest Shot crown.
Winner: Victor Hedman
Breakaway Challenge Competition
This is the most star-studded competition of the night. Zegras’ addition would be enough to get people out of their seats, but throw in young stars like Kaprizov and Hughes and it becomes must-see TV. It would’ve been great to see Alex Ovechkin give these kids a run for their money, but a positive COVID-19 test is keeping him out of this weekend’s festivities. This event should be full of some incredible flash, and nobody has more of that than Zegras.
Winner: Trevor Zegras
NHL 21 in ’22 Competition
The second of the new events, the “21 in ’22” competition is a spinoff of the popular card game Blackjack. Accuracy will again be critical as players try and collect a score of 21 without going over that number while shooting at large targets decorated like playing cards.
Matthews has the best shooting percentage out of anyone in this competition (16.8%), so look for him to get out to a big lead early on, only to lose in the end, just like his team typically does.
Winner: Joe Pavelski
Accuracy Shooting Competition
Although there are no defending champions in this group, there are a lot of great shooters. Troy Terry leads the group in shooting percentage (25.3%), with Draisaitl in a distant second (21.5%). With the top-to-bottom skill, this event could come down to a sudden-death elimination round to decide the champion.
One of the biggest surprises from the lead-up to this year’s All-Star game was that Jake Guentzel wasn’t initially voted in. Instead, Guentzel relied on Pittsburgh Penguins nation to vote him as the ‘Last Man In’ for the Metropolitan Division’s squad. Guentzel will use this stage to show the entire league that the young, Nebraska native is a force to be reckoned with both now and in the future.
Winner: Jake Guentzel