It was a star-studded evening on Friday night at the SAP Center in San Jose, where the annual NHL All-Star Skills Contest took place in front of a crowd of just under 17,000 fans.
A Great In-Arena Atmosphere
Obviously, it was a pro-San Jose crowd at the Shark Tank, but there clearly were a lot of New York Islanders fans in the house as well, as Toronto Maple Leafs forward John Tavares received some of the loudest boos of the night during introductions. Los Angeles Kings D-man Drew Doughty also received the same treatment, as did Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and Pittsburgh Penguins blueliner Kris Letang, but, unlike the Leafs, those teams all have recent history with the Sharks.
Sure, San Jose was rumored to be one of the teams Tavares was considering over the summer during his free agency, but the Sharks ended up with Erik Karlsson as a consolation prize after losing out on the Tavares sweepstakes – they might have gotten the better end of that deal if you ask me.
At any rate, let’s dive right into the events (and the winners) of Friday night’s NHL All-Star Skills Contest:
Skills Contest Event Winners
Bridgestone NHL Fastest Skater
Winner: Connor McDavid (13.378 seconds)
McDavid’s win in this event came as absolutely no shock – after all, he was the two-time defending champion entering the night, and the Edmonton Oilers’ star stole the show once again in San Jose. Fans in the Pacific Division have seen that speed on display against their favorite teams many times over the years, so it came as no surprise to see No. 97 in orange and blue walk away with the title once again.
Jack Eichel posted the second-fastest time at 13.582 seconds, but everyone in attendance knew McDavid was waiting, and he didn’t disappoint when he took center stage.
Dallas Stars’ rookie defenseman Miro Heiskanen had a scary moment in the event, as he took a spill on his first lap around the rink. He, thankfully, was unhurt, and recorded a time of 13.914 on his second try – good enough for fourth place in the event, which was the highest finish for a defenseman.
McDavid aside, the biggest ovation of the event went to Kendall Coyne Schofield, who went first in the event and recorded a time of 14.346 seconds.
Kendall Coyne with absolute wheels pic.twitter.com/FMXWxZs4hu
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) January 26, 2019
She made history as the first woman to take part in the All-Star Skills competition, and she compared favorably with the rest of the field. The 5-foot-2 Coyne Schofield put up an outstanding showing, and she definitely was the people’s champion on Friday night.
Gatorade NHL Puck Control
Winner: Johnny Gaudreau (27.045 seconds)
In the second event of the night, we saw yet another winner from the Pacific Division (and another repeat champion) – Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames posted a time of 27.045 seconds for his second win in as many years, beating out Patrick Kane’s mark of 28.611 seconds, which, for a while, looked like it would be the winning number.
Kane went first and posted his solid time, which came as no surprise, as he’s well-known throughout the league for his shootout prowess and incredible puck-handling abilities. This is Kane’s forte, and we’ve all seen the YouTube videos (and the hilarious Brandon Bollig spoof, too) to know he’d be one of the top finishers in the event.
Vancouver Canucks’ rookie phenom Elias Pettersson participated in the event, but really didn’t have a chance after mishandling the puck during the first section of the competition. His time of 43.622 seconds was just over eight seconds worse than that of Jeff Skinner, who came in seventh place. It’s safe to say that nerves may have gotten the better of the youngster, but there’s no doubt that he’ll have plenty more chances at the All-Star Game in the future.
Tavares also participated in the event, and, amid a chorus of boos, posted a time of 35.210 seconds, prompting the Twitter community to take a few shots at the ex-Islander:
And once again John Tavares takes too long to do something
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) January 26, 2019
Gaudreau, the final shooter, earned the win with a near-flawless performance. Every other player struggled with one aspect of the contest, but Gaudreau breezed through the drills and finished strong by putting his first shot attempt into the net. Other players may have had a chance to top Kane, but they were tripped up by the final obstacle. Gaudreau was not one of them, and he skated away with the win as a result.
Ticketmaster NHL Save Streak
Winner: Henrik Lundqvist (12 straight saves)
In the only event of the night to showcase the All-Star goaltenders, Henrik Lundqvist took home the hardware with an unbelievable performance.
Tampa Bay Lightning netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy got things started with an impressive streak of eight consecutive saves, which spanned the entire round before the final shooter, Seth Jones, put a puck into the net.
Minnesota Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk came close to matching Vasilevskiy’s streak, but he twice had streaks stopped by the Oilers’ Leon Draisaitl, including one streak of seven straight saves.
Lundqvist, the final goaltender to take the ice, struggled to put together a streak early in the round, but turned it on when it mattered. Down to his last chance – allow a goal and it’s over – King Henrik recorded 12 consecutive saves to easily pass Vasilevskiy and run away with the event. Another classic moment for the New York Rangers’ legendary netminder.
Enterprise NHL Premier Passer
Winner: Leon Draisaitl (1:09.088 elapsed time)
The Premier Passer contest got off to a bit of a slow start as players adjusted to the format, and it was Oilers forward Leon Drasaitl who came away with the victory with a time of 1:09.088.
Erik Karlsson and Mikko Rantanen were the first two participants, and they struggled en route to times of 1:58.824 and 2:17.379, prompting some in the arena to wonder if the league had made this year’s format too difficult.
However, the Carolina Hurricanes’ Sebastian Aho quickly changed our minds with a time of 1:18.53 – by far the best to that point in the event. Ryan O’Reilly and Thomas Chabot went next, but Draisaitl breezed through the competition as he became the second Oiler to win an event on Friday night.
SAP NHL Hardest Shot
Winner: John Carlson (102.8 miles per hour)
In an event which has been dominated by Shea Weber and Zdeno Chara in the past, yet another defenseman took home the title in 2019. Washington Capitals blueliner John Carlson won the event with a slapper which was clocked at 102.8 mph.
Brent Burns, the fan favorite in San Jose, might have had a chance at besting Carlson on his first shot attempt, but he pulled it wide of the net and had to settle for a score of 100.6 on his second attempt, which earned him second-place honors.
In third place was the Columbus Blue Jackets’ Seth Jones, with a 99.4 mph slapper. Bringing up the rear was the only forward at the event, Steven Stamkos, who posted a shot at 96.2 mph. He stated during the event that his one-timer is probably faster than his slapshot, and, after having witnessed that shot first-hand numerous times over the years, I’d tend to agree.
Carlson is the second consecutive Capital to win the event, after Alex Ovechkin picked up the victory last season with a shot of 101.3 mph. Upon being asked if he’d do some friendly bragging to his teammate about having a harder shot, Carlson said he’d have to “do (his) research” beforehand.
Smart move, John. But brag away.
Honda NHL Accuracy Shooting
Winner: David Pastrnak (11.309 seconds)
In the final event of the night, the first shooter, David Pastrnak, set the bar too high for the competition to reach. His time of 11.309 seconds was outstanding – Pastrnak got off to a “slow” start, but came back to hit the final four targets consecutively and beat the rest of the competition by over a second-and-a-half.
Kris Letang came the closest to Pastrnak at 12.693 seconds, but it felt like no one really had a chance after Pastrnak’s event-opening performance. It was an impressive showing, and, considering Pastrnak owns a career shooting percentage of 13.5%, it didn’t come as much of a surprise. He’s been doing this to goalies since entering the league in 2014-15, and now he’s got another accolade under his belt.
Overall, it was a fun night at the Shark Tank. Those in attendance were treated to some classic All-Star moments in a night that served as the perfect appetizer to Saturday’s 3-on-3 tournament.
A lifelong Phoenix resident, Louis has been following hockey since 2010, has covered the Arizona Coyotes since 2015, and has been playing hockey since 2020. So far, Louis has visited eight NHL cities, and one of his personal goals is to eventually make it to all 31 NHL arenas. For any questions or concerns, contact the writer via Twitter @LouisPannone.