Noted speedsters Andrew Cogliano of the Edmonton Oilers and Mason Raymond of the Vancouver Canucks, whose sophomore team will face the rookies in the NHL YoungStars Game presented by Upper Deck, have joined the Bridgestone NHL Fastest Skater competition. Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos, a member of the rookies team for the YoungStars game, has thrown his hat into the ring for the Scotiabank NHL Fan Fav Breakaway Challenge.
Cogliano and Raymond will match strides with Fastest Skater entrants Zach Parise of the New Jersey Devils, Jeff Carter of the Philadelphia Flyers, Brian Campbell of the Chicago Blackhawks and Jay Bouwmeester of the Florida Panthers to see who can complete the fastest lap of the Bell Centre ice.
"I think Andrew Cogliano is the fastest skater in the NHL," Columbus Blue Jackets broadcaster and longtime skating instructor Bob Davidge told NHL.com this week. "I watched him when he played for (the University of) Michigan and he'd just pull away from guys in the first three or four strides. (Calgary's) Matt Lombardi and Mason Raymond are like that, the first three strides and look out -- they're on their way."
Stamkos will display his puck-handling and goal-scoring wizardry in the Breakaway Challenge, in which entrants get one minute to complete as many attempts as possible at a routine that ends with a shot on goal. The winner will be selected by fans in a vote by mobile text message. Stamkos joins defending champion Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals, Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks, Martin St. Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Ryan Getzlaf of the Anaheim Ducks and Alex Kovalev of the Montreal Canadiens.
Stamkos already has earned YouTube fame for his acrobatic ‘behind-the-back, top-shelf’ shootout goal as a 16-year-old rookie at the 2007 Ontario Hockey League skills competition.
"The first time I saw it was when (Rob) Schremp did it in an Edmonton Oilers camp, so I decided to practice it a few times, and I got fortunate that it worked," Stamkos said. "I thought I had to do something fancy ... a lot of people thought I went through my legs (with the puck), but when they looked at the replay, they saw I went behind my back."