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Players' talent, humor on display at Skills Competition

Saturday, 01.24.2015 / 11:23 PM / 2015 NHL All-Star Weekend

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

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Players' talent, humor on display at Skills Competition
Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber's 108.5 mph shot in the AMP NHL Hardest Shot competition was a highlight of the Honda NHL All-Star Skills Competition.

COLUMBUS -- Ryan Johansen won over the home crowd, Jakub Voracek and Johnny Gaudreau brought the comedy, and Shea Weber left his fellow all-stars in awe of his impressive slap shot Saturday night during the 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Skills Competition at Nationwide Arena.

Team Foligno, captained by Columbus Blue Jackets forward Nick Foligno, won the competition by a 25-19 margin against Team Toews, captained by Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews. Though the score will likely be forgotten by Sunday, the highlights from the event will live on for a long time.

"It's been a great atmosphere here," Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith said. "It's a nice building with great fans here, and I think it's just been fun. Any time you're around this type of atmosphere, I think it's a special time and something you want to remember and cherish for the rest of your life. As far as the competition, you know, Weber's shot was pretty hard. Nobody shoots it that hard except for him. It's pretty impressive."

Weber, the Nashville Predators captain, dropped many jaws in the building with his 108.5 mph slap shot that won the AMP NHL Hardest Shot competition. He was 0.3 mph shy of tying Zdeno Chara's record shot of 108.8 mph, which the Boston Bruins captain had in the 2012 Skills Competition in Ottawa.

Record or no record, Weber's shot was one of the main highlights of the night among the all-star players here, especially since he missed on his first shot attempt, which registered at 101.8 mph.

"Yeah, it's not right; there are guys that gotta get hit with that thing," said Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, who faced Weber head-to-head in the hardest shot competition. "It's amazing. It's something that he worked on. When your sticks are shooting good, that's what you get."

Weber's previous best in the Hardest Shot competition was 106.0 mph. He hit that number in 2012 to finish second behind Chara.

"You don't do that in games, and I don't practice it in practice, so it's such a weird thing to do," Weber said. "The nerves obviously showed on the first one when I put it in the corner."

Johansen, the Blue Jackets center, played to the home crowd to win the Honda NHL Breakaway Challenge, which was decided by a fan vote on Twitter.

Before going in for his first shootout attempt, Johansen pulled off his Blue Jackets sweater to reveal an Ohio State football jersey. The No. 5 he wore belongs to Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller. He scored on that attempt with his Blue Jackets jersey tied around his waist.

Johansen said he also went shopping Saturday afternoon for an Ohio State football helmet, but he couldn't find one that fit his head.

"My brain must be too big; just a smart kid, you know," Johansen said.

Johansen provided the heartwarming moment of the night on his second attempt, when he pulled Cole Vogt, the 7-year-old son of Blue Jackets trainer Mike Vogt, onto the ice to help him stick-handle his way in to score on Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford.

Johansen said he planned the bit with Mike Vogt. He was originally thinking of pulling a young fan out of the stands to help him, but figured that would be tough; Cole Vogt was on skates, wearing a helmet, and had a stick in his hand.

"I saw [Vogt's] kid ripping around in the dressing room, and I thought, 'Perfect, he would love to have that opportunity,'" Johansen said. "So I talked to Mike, and we agreed upon it, and he was pumped up to be able to get a chance to do that, and something I think we all really enjoyed."

Voracek, the Philadelphia Flyers forward, took Johansen's idea one step further when he pulled Gaudreau, the Calgary Flames' 5-foot-9, 150-pound rookie, onto the ice to mimic what Johansen did with Cole Vogt. Gaudreau scored on St. Louis Blues goalie Brian Elliott.

"I think that actually topped the night right there," Byfuglien said. "I think that one was the funniest."

Elliott said he didn't know what to do when he saw Voracek guiding Gaudreau down the ice.

"I just tried to do what Crawford did at the other end of the ice, try to imitate him," Elliott said.

For his third attempt, Johansen got Foligno, Keith, Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Drew Doughty and Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings, and Claude Giroux of the Flyers to form the Flying V formation.

They dished the puck around as they skated toward the net in unison. Eventually Johansen got the puck between the hash marks, but his shot rang off the crossbar and hit off the protective netting.

"We were talking and just figured we'd try a Flying V there, 'Mighty Ducks' old school move," Johansen said. "I should have actually went and grabbed Byfuglien after [Voracek used Gaudreau] and tried to carry him down there. Unbelievable. I wish I would have thought …"

"I would have died to see that," Foligno said, interrupting Johansen.

Elliott also put on a bit of a show in the Breakaway Challenge by taking a selfie as Blues teammate Vladimir Tarasenko was coming down the ice to shoot on him. He also wore a blindfold on Tarasenko's second attempt and had Tarasenko shoot into a foam target typically used for the accuracy shooting competition for his third attempt.

"It's not about counting goals or counting saves; it's about trying to show the crowd our personalities a little bit, and I think they like to see that," Elliott said. "Obviously in the end in the shootout, you saw the skill these guys have. I was talking to Marc-Andre [Fleury], and it's not like in practice every guy that is coming down on you is a superstar, so it's pretty impressive."

Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin won the Bridgestone NHL Fastest Skater competition with a time of 13.103 seconds.

"Just [go all out] pretty much, and make sure you don't fall," Drouin said.

Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane beat Toews head-to-head to win the DraftKings NHL Accuracy Shooting competition by hitting four targets in six tries that took him 13.529 seconds.

"Nice to have bragging rights," Kane said.

Team Foligno clinched its win with victories in the Gatorade NHL Skills Challenge Relay and the Discover NHL Shootout competition that capped the night.

"As long as the fans enjoy it, I think the guys enjoyed us going out and putting on a show," Toews said. "It changes the pace a little bit."


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