NHL skills competition: Victor Hedman, Jordan Kyrou win big in Vegas
Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman won the Hardest Shot competition and St. Louis’ Jordan Kyrou was the Fastest Skater during an NHL All-Star skills competition with a distinct Vegas flavor Friday night.
Carolina’s Sebastian Aho won the Accuracy Shooting contest at T-Mobile Arena on a night when the biggest impressions were left by the Sin City settings and showmanship.
Columbus’ Zach Werenski won the Fountain Face-Off, in which the All-Stars stood on a floating platform in the middle of the Bellagio casino’s famous fountains up the Strip and shot light-up pucks at a series of targets all around them.
Several more All-Stars then played a game called 21 in ’22 in which they shot at a 35-foot outdoor wall of oversized playing cards in a version of blackjack. Dallas’ Joe Pavelski won that competition by getting closest to 21.
The actual skills competitions probably weren’t as entertaining as the lighthearted Breakaway Challenge, which featured multiple costume stunts by eager pros. Minnesota’s Kirill Kaprizov started it off by doing a sharp imitation of Alex Ovechkin while wearing his hero’s jersey.
Perhaps most impressively, gifted Ducks center Trevor Zegras dressed up as a character from his favorite movie, “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story,” and scored an astonishing, spinning goal while wearing a blindfold and getting hit by dodgeballs thrown by NHL mascots.
At All-Star weekend, the commissioner said the NHL is ready to go worldwide again after two years of coronavirus restrictions and a missed Olympics.
New Jersey’s Jack Hughes then performed a Vegas magic trick by conjuring a mini-Jack Hughes from a seemingly empty box on the ice — and the youngster then skated down and scored a goal.
Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr appeared in a group costume as the main cast members of the Vegas movie classic “The Hangover” and threw a football into the goal, although celebrity judge Jon Hamm only gave him a 7 because that’s how much touchdowns are worth.
A long walk down the Las Vegas Strip from the arena, Werenski finished second to Roman Josi in the first round in the middle of the Bellagio fountains. The Blue Jackets star then won the striking competition in the final, easily hitting the targets faster than the Nashville captain.
Longtime NHL player and front-office executive Pat Verbeek has been hired as the Ducks’ general manager. He replaces Bob Murray, who resigned Nov. 10.
Werenski and Josi advanced just in front of Olympic gold medalist Jocelyn Lamoreaux-Davidson, who finished third as the only woman in the eight-person competition.
Hedman, the Lightning’s imposing defensemen, had both of the hardest shots of the night at 103.2 mph and 102.7 mph. The 6-foot-6 Swede easily topped the Islanders’ Adam Pelech to win the event.
Kyrou (13.550 seconds) was the surprise winner of the skating race, edging the Kings’ Adrian Kempe (13.585) in the lively, one-lap competition among eight skaters.
Perhaps more impressively, Kyrou, Kempe and the Rangers’ Chris Kreider all beat Connor McDavid, the three-time winner of the title. The Edmonton superstar finished fourth in 13.690 seconds.
Aho closed the show with an easy victory in the Accuracy Shooting event, hitting all four targets in succession.
T-Mobile Arena gradually filled in with fans during the event, which started on a weekday afternoon in Vegas. Most of those fans lustily booed Washington All-Star Tom Wilson, who still hasn’t been forgiven for his late hit on Vegas’ own Jonathan Marchessault in Game 1 of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final.
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