As the league heads into the All-Star break, the Jackets sit dead last in the NHL with 34 points through 51 games. But, rather than talking about the current state of the team, I thought it would be fun to take a break and pit the team against one another in their own version of a skills competition.
I’ve followed the NHL for close to 30 years, and while All-Star weekend as a whole has gotten way too gimmicky to keep my full attention, I do still enjoy seeing guys show off their individual talents. I most enjoy seeing who has the hardest shot, but it’s also cool to see the fastest skater because there are always surprises. Like last year, there will be some location-driven events, including a golf/hockey challenge featuring Johnny Gaudreau.
Gaudreau is the team’s lone representative in Florida this week, and he’ll be showing off his skills alongside the best in the world. Without any games this week, I got to thinking: if the Jackets were icing a roster with full health and held their own competition, who might take place in some of these events? Who might win? Here are some of my predictions.
Let’s start off with my favorite competition: the hardest shot. The Jackets have a handful of guys who can really bring it, but let’s be honest and say that there’s a clear favorite here. The only question I have is, how far over 100mph could Patty get? (Bonus: does Yegor get to take a wrist shot?) Likely Winner: Patrik Laine. Runners Up: Zach Werenski, Yegor Chinakhov. Dark Horse: Kirill Marchenko.
There’s plenty of speed on the wings in Columbus, and any number of players could contend in this category. And, since there are no pucks involved, there are a couple of lower in the lineup players who could make some noise. Likely Winner: Eric Robinson. Runners Up: Liam Foudy, Johnny Gaudreau. Dark Horse: Yegor Chinakhov.
This event could be interesting, since you don’t have to put a ton of velocity on the puck in this one. Sometimes, defensemen have an upper hand in this event because they’re more used to getting pucks through traffic and on net. It’s a skill they have more practice with. But in the end … Likely Winner: Johnny Gaudreau. Runners Up: Zach Werenski, Kent Johnson. Dark Horse: Adam Boqvist.
Remember when they used to have players stickhandle around the cones, as quickly as possible? That was a great event, they tried a few different varieties and you could really see the hands on some of the players in a free-wheeling environment. This one is almost too easy to predict. Likely Winner: Kent Johnson. Runners Up: Johnny Gaudreau, Jakub Voracek. Dark Horse: Gustav Nyquist.
The final event in the CBJ Skills Competition? Accuracy passing. This event has the players either moving or stationary, making saucer passes over obstacles and into tiny nets. It’s another event that showcased individual talent, without the potential for someone breaking up the play. And there are some interesting contenders here as well. Likely Winner: Johnny Gaudreau. Runners Up: Jakub Voracek, Kent Johnson. Dark Horse: Adam Boqvist.
There is plenty of skill throughout the CBJ lineup – arguably more than they have ever had. I think several of these challenges would be interesting to watch; and it’s possible that a guy you might not expect could come out of nowhere and win any one of these events. I would certainly tune in to watch.