With All-Star Weekend coming up in Ottawa there are so many great events we'll get to watch. One of the best is the annual NHL All-Star Skills Competition, which will happen Saturday night at Scotiabank Place. Because the captains haven't drafted their teams yet, it's hard to predict who will win each event, but for the more individual competitions, I know who I like.
Here are the people I expect to shine Saturday night:
Hardest shot: There are a lot of people who can slap the puck pretty hard, but to me there are just two guys that matter in this competition: Shea Weber and Zdeno Chara. It came down to those two last year and it was Chara that took it all, breaking his own record for the win at 105.9 miles per hour. This time around though, I like Weber to win the rematch, and I'll take him in the hardest shot competition.
Fastest skater: There are plenty of guys to watch out for here, but I know who I like and it's the local boy, Erik Karlsson from the Senators. This kid can fly, and kid might be the key word there. With these events, a lot of older guys don't want to do it, so I'm leaning toward the younger guys. If Marian Gaborik was in it, I would think he'd be one of the guys that would be right there, as would someone like Marian Hossa or Brian Campbell. But I think the younger guys are the ones who will get the spotlight -- after all, last year's final round was between Michael Grabner and Taylor Hall. I could see someone like Tyler Seguin getting in the mix, too, but I think it's Karlsson in this one.
Shooting Accuracy: I really like this event. I think it's more of a hockey contest than just some made-up drill, because you have to catch the pass, shoot the puck, and your timing is definitely involved, too. For this one I'm going to go out on a little bit of a limb and say Jason Pominville. I don't think anyone is talking about Buffalo unless we're talking about negative stuff, but Pominville is definitely one of the bright lights for the Sabres. If you watch his goals, they all go at an area. They're upstairs and they're rockets over the goalie's shoulder. Guys who can shoot like that are the ones who do well here -- guys like Jarome Iginla or Claude Giroux. I like Pominville this time around.
The Breakaway Challenge and Elimination Shootout are hard events to predict, but if I was going to pick a forward to watch in those I think my first guy would be Patrick Kane. He's just awesome. I know he's not scoring goals like he normally does this season, but if you saw that move he made on Minnesota's Niklas Backstrom in the shootout recently, you know he's still got it. That was tremendous. He might be the most dangerous guy on a breakaway in the League. I like the moves Tyler Seguin has, too, and of course Pavel Datsyuk has to be in the mix, but if I really wanted to pick one guy to look out for it would be Patrick Kane.
As for the Challenge Relay, without knowing who is on Team Alfredsson and who is on Team Chara, it's impossible to know who can win, but the guys I would look for in those events are the quick, smaller guys. Bigger players like Chara are mobile, but sometimes their mass is just too large and they can't turn quick enough to make a difference. The smaller, shorter guys who have a low center of gravity and not as big an area to turn are the ones to look out for, and I really think Phil Kessel is a guy who would be great in this kind of event. Datsyuk and Kane are also players to look out for in an event like this, but for a guy his size with those skills and the way he's playing this season, I think Kessel will be a huge factor.