Jasen Vinlove - USA TODAY Sports

Take Town: All-Star Game Rank Town

The big thing to watch on All-Star Weekend, for me, is not the game. Obviously.

You can't get too mad that they're not really hitting each other, but the games just aren't really played at anything resembling full speed, when hockey's at its best. They tried to juice things a little bit by giving the winning team a cut of a $1 million prize, and that seemed to work okay but not great or anything.

But the skills competition was always fun even when guys were, again, going like half-effort and all that. Mostly because the goalies didn't want to go all out and pull a groin over some little game where the forward is dressed like a Squid Game character or some similar “this was popular four years ago” reference the NHL loves to pull out. Maybe we'll see a Stranger Thing!! Don't think that'll be a problem this year, because the winner of the overall competition will personally get a million bucks, and the winning goalie will get $100,000. That might be worth a quad pull or something even to the richest players in the game.

With that in mind, let's have a little fun and expand on last year's rankings of the Skills Competition events (especially because they got rid of the one I ranked third).

Let’s go:

8) Obstacle course

This is a new one, as far as I can tell, and it's also the finals of the event — "Where points are doubled!!!!" is what they keep saying — so maybe it'll be good but I just hear obstacle course and if it's not the yucky obstacle course from the end of Double Dare, what are we even doing here?

That said, I have a pretty strong feeling they will not be sliming William Nylander for saying, "I don't know," or asking Quinn Hughes to reach up into a giant nose filled with green goop, so I'm sure they're just gonna have to skate up a ramp or something. I'm certainly interested to see what this will be but I cannot in good conscience list it among my favorite events.

7) Passing challenge

As much as I like the idea of the last time they did the passing challenge, which is to say creating a game so needlessly difficult and precise that the players participating in it look visibly pissed-off, the fact is that it ends up not being that fun to watch Nikita Kucherov miss a mini-net for the 30th time after he missed another mini-net right next to it 29 times in a row.

Hopefully, the league has learned from its past (passed?) mistakes 

6) Stick-handling

They've done this one in the past and it's just kinda nothing. A guy stick handles through a bunch of pucks, then a bunch of things that are bigger and farther apart than pucks, then goes through some hoops and taps it into an empty net. Okay great.

As with a lot of this other stuff, I expect this to be juiced up a little bit and made a smidge more fun and exciting, and it's probably going to be played at a higher speed given the financial incentive, but at the end of the day we're not looking at anything too dazzling.

5) One-timers

This is another new one but unlike the obstacle course, it's pretty easy to picture how this one plays out. Guys get fed one-timers and hammer the puck at the net, presumably with some targets in place, or maybe they're judged on the velocity they generate. Ideally both. But we, as hockey fans, love seeing guys tee up monster one-timers.

Of course, none of the hardest shooters in the league this season, according to those NHL Edge stats, are actually in this competition. In fact, the shooters participating in this rank 45th (Elias Pettersson), 51st (J.T. Miller), 81st (David Pastrňák), 169th (Mathew Barzal) 184th (Nikita Kucherov), 218th (Auston Matthews), 332nd (Nathan MacKinnon), and 386th (Leon Draisaitl). No real stats on "reliably accurate one-time guys" so maybe these feel like good picks, I dunno.

4) Choose-your-opponent shootout

Okay, this one could be really fun, mostly because it'll be great to see the buyer's remorse. This is the semifinal of the competition, and the top eight skaters will get to choose, Nos. 1 through 8, which of the eight All-Star goaltenders they want to face in a shootout (presumably one-and-done but it could be best-of-three or something). This is for $1 million, so the effort will definitely be there for skaters.

But here's the thing: The goalie who wins this competition will get $100,000. I don't know how they determine which goalie wins — for example, what if four of them make the stop, or stop 2 of 3 or whatever? Do they split the money? I don't know.

But crucially, this is one of the competitions where you're basically guaranteed to see someone try hard. Can't beat that.

3) Fastest skater

Another one where you're basically guaranteed to see a guy push himself. They zip around the rink so fast. Wow!

Not clear at this time whether we're getting the "they get a head start" speed competition, or the "they start from a standstill," but either way, you're getting guys who can move. In contrast to the hardest-shot or one-timer competitions, this one has guys who are in the conversation for "fastest skater alive." Obviously, the top-line matchup is Connor McDavid (23.58 miles per hour, good for 11th in the league) versus Barzal (23.53 mph, 13th). Makar isn't that far behind (22.97 mph, 65th), but then there's a similarly large drop to Hughes (22.4 mph, 206th) and Nylander (22.35 miles per hour, 215th). It's too bad MacKinnon, who's participating in the Skills Competition, isn't doing fastest skater, because he's one of just three players to get up over 24 miles an hour at least once this season.

Can't win 'em all, I guess.

2) Hardest shot

Again, who doesn't just love seeing a guy step into one and the board lights up and it has a number over 100 miles an hour? Just about nothing better.

For the record, here are the hardest-shot ranks for the guys taking part in this one: Pettersson, (45th), Miller (51st) Makar (68th), Pastrňák (81st), and Matthews (218th).

Only 22 guys in the league this year have a shot over 100 miles an hour and none of them are All-Stars, so you take what you can get. But of course, the way they do the hardest shot in the NHL isn't exactly like a situation you'll ever see in a game, so it's possible at least one of them hits triple digits. Here's hoping.

1) Accuracy shooting

This event is the Cadillac of Skills Competition events and everyone on earth understands that. It's so satisfying seeing the targets explode. Remember when they had the digital board for it instead of the little foam targets? Talk about not understanding your audience. We wanna see 'em get obliterated!

(Also, boy I seem to remember a lot of minutiae about Skills Competitions past. I watch them on YouTube sometimes. Is it possible I am the world's foremost Skills Competition aficionado?)

The other thing about this competition is, of course, rooting for someone to go 4-for-4. It happens so rarely, but when it does, Mama Mia. Given the quality of player participating this year, I think it's possible we maybe even see more than one. Can I hope for that? Is that allowed?

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NHL NHL Quinn Hughes Nathan MacKinnon Connor McDavid
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