On Thursday, I made the argument that Elias Pettersson could conceivably compete in all six events at the 2019 All-Star Skills Competition thanks to his diverse skill set. That includes the lone goaltending competition, in which every skater will participate in taking shootout attempts on the various goalies.
The one event where I thought he could compete, but wouldn’t get a chance to because he isn’t known for his breakneck speed, is the Fastest Skater competition. So, because the universe takes special delight in regularly proving me wrong, Pettersson will be competing in the Fastest Skater competition, along with the Puck Control event.
Most fans likely expected him to be in one or both of the shooting events, either taking aim at Brock Boeser’s crown in the Accuracy Shooting event or earning some respect with his near-100 mph slap shot in the Hardest Shot event.
Still, we’ll get to see plenty of Pettersson Friday night at the Skills Competition, as he will participate in half of the events — he’ll still be one of the shooters in the Save Streak competition for the goaltenders. Maybe he’ll even get recruited as a passer for Joe Pavelski in the Accuracy Shooting event, though Pavelski will likely get his Sharks teammates, Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns, to help him out in front of the San Jose crowd.
Pettersson will be hard-pressed to win the Fastest Skater event. Connor McDavid has won the event two years in a row, doing a lap of the rink in 13.310 and 13.454 seconds in the past two All-Star weekends. Speedsters Cam Atkinson, Mathew Barzal, Jack Eichel, Miro Heiskanen, Clayton Keller and US Women’s National Team forward Kendall Coyne will also be competing in the event.
Last year, Eichel had a time of 13.828 seconds, while the other skaters did not compete in the event. Barzal and Atkinson might have the best shot of besting McDavid.
Pettersson has a better chance at winning the Puck Control event, which was introduced last year and saw several stars struggle.
It starts with stickhandling through a row of pucks, then weaving through a set of pylons, followed by the element that tripped up the most players: lifting the puck through a series of gates.
Johnny Gaudreau had the fastest time last year at 24.650 seconds, and he’ll be competing again to defend his crown. The other two repeat competitors are Patrick Kane and John Tavares, who had the second fastest time last year.
Pettersson has the agile skating and sublime stickhandling, as well as the puck control tricks, to make short work of the course, but he’ll be facing tough competition beyond Gaudreau, Kane, and Tavares, as Claude Giroux, Gabriel Landeskog, Mark Scheifele, and Jeff Skinner will also take on the course.
The 2019 All-Star Skills Competition starts at 6:00pm on CBC and Sportsnet Pacific.