The Colorado Avalanche 2018 NHL All Star representative, Nathan MacKinnon, would be a good candidate for at least two of the skills competition events.
Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon is in Tampa Bay, Florida, for the three-day All Star Weekend. Though it’s true he doesn’t get to have a break like his Avs teammates, there are worse ways to spend a January weekend — say in Minnesota where the snow was so bad six Wild players almost didn’t make it to the game. (Start the mournful violins — they eventually made it.)
In case you’re wondering, the weather is supposed to be in the 70s all weekend in Tampa.
Anyway, as far back as the 1990s glory days, my favorite part of All Star Weekend has always been the skills competition. It’s changes some through the years. But I’ve always felt the players were more relaxed and you got a chance to really see what they could do.
This year’s competition includes six events hosted by the likes of GEICO, Honda, Dunkin’ Donuts, Enterprise, Gatorade, and PPG. (Now that I’ve listed them here, I’m going to keep them off the actual events themselves.) Here are the six competitions:
- NHL Fastest Skater
- NHL Passing Challenge
- NHL Save Streak
- NHL Puck Control Relay
- NHL Hardest Shot
- NHL Accuracy Shooting
For some reason, the NHL appears to have done away with the Breakaway Challenge, which was always the most popular event — that’s the one in which players dress up and do sweet dangles on the breakaway.
Each player has to participate in at least one event, but I’m going to propose two events for Nathan MacKinnon.
The obvious event is the Fastest Skater competition. MacKinnon is renowned for being one of the fastest skaters in the NHL. Last year he competed against Connor McDavid. Alas, MacKinnon lost. McDavid is also at the All Star Weekend. I’m guessing we might see a re-match — and I bet this year Nate wins.
Puck Control Relay
I’d like to see MacKinnon in the Puck Control Relay. This event tests speed, agility, and stick work — so it should be obvious why I’d want to see MacKinnon in the competition.
With the Puck Control Relay, there are three stations with different tasks. The first station is the classic stickwork drill — players must control the puck through a series of eight in a straight line.
The second station consists of eight cones. The skater skates around the cones while controlling the puck. The third stations features a ring in a gate — the player must shoot or otherwise guide the puck through the ring. I’d like to see MacKinnon at the first or, especially, second gate.
The Hardest Shot competition is a classic, having been around since 1990. The two players who routinely win it, Shea Weber and Zdeno Chara, are not attending the game this year. Still, I doubt MacKinnon gets tapped for this one.
The Accuracy Shooting has also been around a while. Back in the day, players had to hit a bull’s eye positioned in each corner of the net plus the center. This is 2018, though, and the competition has gone high-tech. The net has been outfitted with LED lights that randomly light up — the players have three seconds to hit the target. The winner is the player who hits all five in the fastest amount of time. Nate could nail this one, but his talents are a little stronger in other areas.
One of the new events this year is the Passing Challenge — last year parts of the skills were featured in the 4-Line Challenge. The Passing Challenge consists of three skills:
- Target passing: four successful passes to randomly-lit targets
- Give and go: four successful passes through a neutral zone course setup
- Mini nets: four successful passes over a barricade and into different mini nets
Nathan MacKinnon has accuracy in his stick work, but he’s more of a finisher than a playmaker.
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The other new competition this year is the Save Streak. MacKinnon will participate in this event for sure because all 36 skaters will. It will be set up as a shootout, but the emphasis is on the goalie’s save streak.
The shootout is set up according to division. Each goalie faces an opposing division with at least nine scoring attempts. The nine skaters take their shootout attempt in numerical order from lowest to highest. The officials record the save streak — if the ninth shot results in a save, the competition keeps going until there’s a score.
Goalies attending this year are Canadiens’ Carey Price, Bolts’ Andrei Vasilevskiy, Capitals’ Braden Holtby, Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist, Knights’ Marc-Andre Fleury, Kings’ Jonathan Quick, Jets’ Connor Hellebuyck and Predators’ Pekka Rinne.
- Saturday, January 27: NHL All-Star Skills Competition — 5:30 pm MT), NBCS
- Sunday, January 28: NHL All-Star Game — 1:30 p.m. MT, NBC
In addition to the above televised events, the weekend will include autographs from the likes of current players Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos and past players like Dave Andreychuk and Bryan Trottier.
Additionally, the events I like following as best I can since they’re not televised are those featuring the mascots. They played Dodgeball last night. They’ll compete in a dance competition at 3pm MT this afternoon (Saturday) and a bean bag toss tomorrow at 10:20 am MT.
The Colorado Avalanche have another non-game day on Monday before starting their next road trip, again in Canada, this time against the Vancouver Canucks. They’ll stay up in Canada for two more games before coming back to Colorado.