Hedman, Kyrou, Aho win big in Vegas NHL skills competition
LAS VEGAS (AP) — 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 entertaining stunt goals by costumed 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 Anaheim 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 and Ducks teammate Troy Terry, who was just as stunned as the crowd when Zegras scored.
“I’ve seen what he can do with a puck, and I figured he was doing something along those lines,” Terry said. “All I knew was that I had a dodgeball and I was supposed to not hit him, which was really hard not to do.”
Zegras didn’t make the Pacific Division’s All-Star team despite a standout season that has made him a Calder Trophy frontrunner, but he was brought to the skills competition specifically for his showmanship.
The star center said this goal was even tougher than his famed lacrosse-style assist to teammate Sonny Milano earlier this season because he really couldn’t see. Ducks teammate John Gibson double-wrapped his blindfold, and Zegras said he had “no idea” how he kept the puck on his stick.
“I worked on it this morning with a couple of hockey influencers, and that’s what we came up with,” Zegras said of his scheme. “It worked exactly how I wanted it to.”
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.
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 Bellagio fountains. The Blue Jackets star then won the striking competition in the final, easily hitting the targets faster than the Nashville captain.
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 and 102.7 mph. The 6-foot-6 Swede comfortably topped the Islanders’ Adam Pelech to win the event.
“It was a lot of fun,” Hedman said. “I have a lot of practice shooting as hard as I can.”
Hedman remembered competing in the event in 2017 in Los Angeles, where he missed the net with his first shot and hit the bar with his second.
“I hit the net both times here, so I was happy about that,” he said.
Kyrou (13.550 seconds) was the surprise winner of the skating race, edging Los Angeles’ 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.
More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports