NHL All-Star Skills Predictions – Fastest Skater, Hardest Shot

The 2023 NHL All-Star Weekend is upon us. Friday night is the All-Star Skill Contest, which will begin broadcasting at 7 ET on ESPN and ESPN+. On Saturday, the All-Star Game itself will be held at the FLA Live Arena in Sunrise, Fla., with coverage beginning at 3 p.m. ET on ABC and ESPN+.

The skill competitions usually get a little silly – in the best way possible – and the goal of this year’s South Florida event means we’ll see two outdoor Florida-focused events: the Pitch ‘n’ Puck and the Splash Shot. Of course, the skill competition also includes classic disciplines such as fastest skater, hardest shot, breakaway challenge and precision shooting.

Who do we think will win these events, and what else are we looking forward to? Our panel is here to discuss these very questions.

Who will win as the fastest skater?

Ryan S. Clark, NHL reporter: Kal Makar. Hockey fans talk a lot, and rightly so, about Nathan MacKinnon’s pace when it comes to the Colorado Avalanche. The reality is that Makar is also one of the fastest skaters in the league. Avs players have told me the following doesn’t happen, but it would be great to see Makar and MacKinnon challenge each other in practice to see who’s faster.

Emily Kaplan, NHL reporter: In 2016, then-rookie Dylan Larkin set a mark of 13.172 seconds – lightning fast – breaking the 20-year record for the event. I say the Detroit Red Wings captain takes revenge on a mediocre performance last year and reclaims his crown.

Arda Öcal, NHL presenter: Give me Kirill “The Thrill” Kaprizov in excitement. I have no statistical basis for that – I just want him to win.

Kristen Shilton, NHL reporter: Makar is a sneaky skater. We always love the forwards at these events, but if there’s one defender who can outperform any competition, it has to be Colorado’s blueliner.

Greg Wyshynski, NHL reporter: Hand me Chandler Stephenson of the Vegas Golden Knights in an act of defiance. You have people saying, “Why is Chandler Stephenson here instead of a Seattle Kraken player to replace the injured Matty Beniers?” And then there are people who just say, “Why is Chandler Stephenson here anyway?”

Winning the fastest skater competition would be a declarative statement. He was supposed to break into “This is Me” from The Greatest Showman in the post-race interview.

Who wins the hardest shot?

Clear: Let’s start with Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Seth Jones. He had a strong performance in 2019 when his hardest shot hit 99.4mph. Then it was enough for third place. Maybe there’s a chance he’ll add a little more speed and walk away with this year’s title.

Chaplain: I have a feeling people will overlook Elias Pettersson but he’s my favorite. And it sounds like the season’s puck and player tracking data is backing me up.

Öcal: I’m going with Josh Morrissey. I wouldn’t want to block his shot, would I?

Shilton: Also go here with Josh Morrissey. They’re playing a tough game in Winnipeg and Morrissey has had some practice getting his weight behind a shot. Also, this is a great moment for him to show off a little and get on the radar of anyone who hasn’t realized what a great season he’s having for the Jets.

Vyshynsky: While I long for the days when Zdeno Chara set the radar gun ablaze with the sheer speed of his shots, I may be underestimating this group. I’ll also be picking Seth Jones, who has experience of the event and will likely relish the chance to put some existential fears behind his swatter about the Blackhawks’ current status.

What are your thoughts on the outdoor events this year?

Clear: On the one hand, it’s a creative way to celebrate All-Star Weekend in South Florida. Then again, one wonders if the league will do the same in other markets. For example, what would be the outdoor event in Calgary, Edmonton or Winnipeg in February?

Chaplain: I’m totally into it and I love how the league is constantly adapting to the local environment and trying new things. The Splash Shot will produce some fun moments – especially with good buddies Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon going head-to-head as a partnership.

Öcal: I love them when they are out in warm weather. If the All-Star Game ever takes place in the wonderful town of Winterpeg, I hope for everyone involved that no outdoor events will take place or that they will be sponsored and kitted out by Canada Goose. While in Florida? Keep us on the beach all day! Please!

Shilton: I think it’s a good thing for the NHL to try something new, especially during All-Star Weekend! The outdoor element is a nod to where the event takes place (Shoutout, South Florida) and allows the league to inject more creativity into their annual presentation. Dig it.

Vyshynsky: I’m torn, but only because of the pre-recorded nature of the events. For example, I’m someone who appreciates the unpredictability and occasional chaos of the sketches of “Saturday Night Live” more than the tightly cut pre-taped segments. However, the behind-the-scenes commercial parodies and vignettes they pre-record are exponentially funnier.

Ultimately, I tend to lean towards the positive side of the outdoor events, particularly for their ingenuity – like hockey golf! — and the undeniable comfort of the players involved, working at a pre-recorded pace.

What are you looking forward to the most?

Clear: See fan engagement for the game. One thing South Florida does very well is attending events. That’s another reason the College Football Playoffs, New Year’s Six Bowl Games, and Super Bowl are doing so well there. South Florida excels whenever there’s a spectacle, and it should be interesting to see what it can do with the NHL All-Star Game.

Chaplain: Jason Robertson takes part in the Pitch ‘n’ Puck event. Robertson told me this summer that he’s notoriously not a good golfer — even though golf is generally the favorite hobby of most hockey players. Robertson said he’s probably in the bottom first percentile of all NHL players when it comes to golf, and in his words, “How am I supposed to get good at golf if nobody invites me?”

This event is not just golf but it will be entertaining to see him compete in a golf inspired event.

Öcal: I still hold strong for an eventual “breakaway challenge becomes a dunk contest” narrative, so I’m hoping we’ll see elite creativity in the competition.

Shilton: Can’t wait to see how this splash shot event goes down. The pairings are incredible – Crosby and MacKinnon? Yes. Tkachuk brothers? Even better – and if it brings out the fun side of these guys, then so much the better for everyone. Anyone have a special trick up their sleeve? How will players approach this? Excited to see if they embrace the spirit of the matter and really go for it.

Vyshynsky: Sydney Crosby. I’ve followed All-Star Games throughout his career. The biggest story about Sid used to be why he wasn’t attending one – injury, apathy, etc. – and not what he was going to do at All-Star Weekend.

But as he got older, that experience meant more to him. At 36, “Sid The Kid” enters a dunk tank shooting competition and teams up with his former nemesis Alex Ovechkin at the trick shot competition. This is wild! I love the easygoing, fun-loving Sid. It’s taken a while, but he’s here.

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