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2018 NHL All-Star Tournament and Skills Competition Weekend Preview

Will Noah Hanifin come home from Florida a chunk of change richer? We’ll find out this weekend in Tampa.

NHL: NHL All Star Game Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Last year, Justin Faulk took home a share of a cool million dollars as a member of the victorious Metropolitan Division All-Star team. This year, Noah Hanifin will try to do likewise as the Carolina Hurricanes’ representative to the NHL’s midseason showcase, to be held in Tampa’s Amalie Arena this weekend.

While the All-Star tournament hasn’t changed from the previous two years, things will be a little different in Saturday’s skills competition, with the goalies finally getting a chance to shine outside of being a pawn in a shootout competition, and the retirement of an old standby in the accuracy competition. Additionally, there isn’t a team component to this year’s skills; every competition is individual, with winners receiving $25,000 each.

What will you be watching this weekend? We have answers, complete with descriptions from the NHL on each skill.

NHL: NHL All Star Game-Skills Competition Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Fastest Skater

Eight skaters will compete in the Enterprise NHL Fastest Skater™. Each skater will be timed for one full lap around the rink. The skater may choose the direction of their lap and can be positioned a maximum of three feet behind the start line located on the penalty box side of the center red line. The skater must start on the referee’s whistle and the timing clock will start when the skater crosses the start line. In the event of a clock malfunction, the official time will be recorded by the referee’s stopwatch. The skater with the fastest time is the winner of the Enterprise NHL Fastest Skater™, and if there is a tie for the fastest time, the tied players will skate another lap to determine the winner.

There’s nothing that can really change from year to year in a fastest skater competition: post the lowest time, win cash. The only minor changes this season are that each skater will go individually, instead of players pairing off, and the bonus round to beat the all-time record has been eliminated.

NHL: NHL All Star Game-Skills Competition Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Passing Challenge

Eight players will compete in the Dunkin’ Donuts NHL Passing Challenge™, which consists of three skills over one round, including (1) Target Passing, where each player must complete four successful passes to targets that light up in a random sequence; (2) Give and Go, where each player must successfully complete the four required passes through a course set up in the neutral zone; and (3) Mini Nets, where each player must complete one pass over a barricade and into each of four mini nets, as well as an additional pass into the game net. Each skill must be completed before a player moves on to the next. The referee’s whistle signals completion of each skill. The player to complete all three skills in the fastest time is deemed the winner of the Dunkin’ Donuts NHL Passing Challenge™, and if there is a tie for the fastest time, the tied players will compete again to determine the winner.

This replaces the Skills Challenge Relay from years past, and eliminates things such as the one-timer challenge and the goalies attempting to hit an empty net from the other end of the ice (don’t worry, they’ll get their chance). But the mini-nets are back, which is all that really matters.

2017 Honda NHL All-Star Game - Metropolitan Division v Atlantic Division Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images

Save Streak

Five goalies and all 36 skaters will participate in the GEICO NHL Save Streak™, a shootout grouped by division where goalies compete to make the most consecutive saves. Each goalie will face one opposing division and a minimum of nine scoring attempts. Each scoring attempt is officiated in accordance with NHL shootout rules and begins on the referee’s whistle. Players from each division will shoot in numerical order, lowest to highest, with the divisional captain shooting ninth. A goalie’s round at the GEICO NHL Save Streak™ cannot end with a save – if the divisional captain’s shot is saved, the goalie will continue to face shooters until a goal is scored. If the goalie makes a save on the divisional captain’s shot, the order of shooters to follow is the same as at the original order. The goalie with the longest consecutive save streak during his time in net is the winner of the GEICO NHL Save Streak™. If there is a tie for longest consecutive save streak, the goalie with the highest total saves made during his round will be crowned the winner.

Say hello to the NHL’s version of the Home Run Derby, starring the all-star goaltenders. Make as many saves as you can, and the longest consecutive run wins. Goalies had long complained that the former shootout challenge didn’t give them a chance to show off enough, so this is almost like a reverse shootout: low goal totals, in this case, are good.

2017 Coors Light NHL All-Star Skills Competition Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NHLI via Getty Images

Puck Control Relay

Eight players will compete in the Gatorade NHL Puck Control Relay™, a timed single-round event that includes three skills: (1) Stickhandling, where a skater controls a puck through a series of eight pucks in a straight line; (2) Cone Control, where a skater controls a puck through a series of eight cones in a zig-zag formation; and (3) Gates, where a skater approaches a gate and is required to shoot or otherwise guide the puck through the lighted rung of a gate. Each skill must be completed before moving on to the next skill. The referee’s whistles will signal completion of each skill and the player to complete the three skills in the fastest time is deemed the winner of the Gatorade NHL Puck Control Relay™. If there is a tie for the fastest time, the tied players will compete again to determine the winner.

This is basically the puck control aspect of the old skills challenge relay separated out and expanded into its own competition, and to call it a “relay” is a bit of a misnomer: each round is one player competing in each skill. The cone control skill is identical to the former format, surrounded by two new challenges.

2017 Coors Light NHL All-Star Skills Competition Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images

Hardest Shot

Six players will compete in the PPG NHL Hardest Shot™. Over two rounds, each player will attempt two shots measured in miles per hour (mph), with the highest speed of their two shots recorded. After each player’s first attempt, the order of shots for second attempts will be based on the speed recorded in the first round, slowest to fastest. For each attempt, a single puck is positioned on the ice 30 feet from the center of the goal. Starting no further than the nearest blue line, the shooter may skate towards the puck and shoot it from its positioned spot into the goal. Shots must be on goal to be calculated and all shots are recorded by radar in miles per hour. If a puck enters the goal uncalculated due to a malfunction of the radar equipment, the shooter will be allowed an additional attempt. If player breaks his stick he will be given another attempt. The player who records the fastest speed is the winner of the PPG NHL Hardest Shot™. If there is a tie for the fastest speed, the tied players will shoot again to determine the winner.

Of all the skills competition events, this is the one that has changed the least. Similar to the fastest skater, there’s not much you can do to change a hardest-shot competition, so this will look mighty familiar.

DraftKings NHL Accuracy Shooting Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Shot Accuracy

Eight players will compete in the Honda NHL Accuracy Shooting™, a timed event where a shooter is positioned 25 feet from the goal line and shoots pucks at five LED targets located in the net. On the referee’s whistle, one of the five LED targets will randomly light up for three seconds and the player will attempt to hit the lighted target. Hit targets will be taken out of the random sequencing and if the target is not hit within three seconds, the next target will be lighted. The clock stops when the player has successfully hit all five targets, the player that hits all five targets in the fastest time will be crowned the winner of the Honda NHL Accuracy Shooting™. If there is a tie for the fastest time, the tied players will compete again to determine the winner.

The big change here is the removal of the foam plates that have been the identifying feature of this competition for years. In their place, a random sequence of targets will light up, and the player has to hit the lighted target within three seconds before the next target lights up. This is the most unpredictable of all the changes, as players competing in this event have for years put a plan together to hit the targets, but now that they’ll be randomized they won’t be able to do so, and as a result we could see some really lengthy times in this challenge as the players adapt.

2017 Honda NHL All-Star Game - Central Division v Pacific Division Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images

All-Star Tournament

Last year, the team that “won” the Skills Competition got to pick its opponent and whether they would play their semifinal game first or second. With the removal of the team component to the Skills Competition, the tournament reverts to a typical East-vs.-West format, with the Atlantic and Metro squaring off, followed by the Central and Pacific, with the two winners playing for the million dollar bonus.

Each game will consist of two ten-minute periods, with teams switching ends at the end of the first period, and if there’s a tie the game will be settled with a shootout following normal regular season rules.

We’ll have discussion posts open both for Saturday’s Skills Competition and Sunday’s All-Star Tournament, so enjoy the festivities!