The 2020 NHL All-Star Skills presented by New Amsterdam Vodka is the perfect stage to showcase the creativity of the sport’s best players. But who among these supremely talented players has the goods to steal the spotlight? We asked eight of the NHL.com writers who will be covering the event at Enterprise Center on Friday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, CBC, TVAS) for his or her favorite to have the most captivating performance in the skills competition. Here are their answers:
Amalie Benjamin, staff writer
I’m just going to use Control-V to paste David Pastrnak‘s name into every roundtable this season. I’d feel like a homer, but the Boston Bruins forward is leading the NHL with 37 goals and he’s not far behind in personality, a combination that makes him ripe to steal the spotlight, even from the best of the best. Sure, Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid is the easy pick, given the insanity of his skill set. But I’m all-in on Pastrnak this season. I just wish there was a fashion show portion of the All-Star Skills. Then he’d really get to shine.
Nick Cotsonika, columnist
I have to give Patrick Kane his props. Remember 2012? The Chicago Blackhawks forward used a couple of props to entertain the crowd in Ottawa. He put on a Superman cape and glasses; skated toward St. Louis Blues goalie Brian Elliott, cape flapping in the wind; slid on his stomach as if he were flying; gloved the puck to his stick; and slid the puck around Elliott into the net as the goalie played along. The best performers in this event have more than skills. They have showmanship. Let’s hope Kane puts on another show.
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William Douglas, staff writer
How are you going to argue against McDavid, a player who recently scored a goal that brought Wayne Gretzky out of his seat? McDavid has way too many skills not to rise above the best of the best. His skating, speed and edgework are his trademarks. But sets him apart from the other all-stars is what he can do with the puck while skating full-out. Look for McDavid to entertain and make statement about who’s the best player in the NHL.
Tom Gulitti, staff writer
I’m going to go with T.J. Oshie. We don’t know which events the players will compete in yet, but we’ve seen what the Washington Capitals forward can do in the shootout. He’s best among the League’s active players with a 51.8 percent conversion rate (minimum 25 attempts), so at the least he’d be a pain to the goalies in the Bud Light NHL Save Streak. I can also see him being a natural if he’s picked for the Gatorade NHL Shooting Stars, when players will shoot from an elevated platform behind the goal, about 30 feet above the ice surface, at a variety of targets on the ice. Oshie is also sure to be a fan favorite — other than the four St. Louis Blues players participating — because he began his NHL career in St. Louis and remains beloved there.
Pete Jensen, senior fantasy editor
Last year, we were introduced to “Coach [Nathan] MacKinnon” at the All-Star Game in San Jose because the Colorado Avalanche center was sidelined by a foot injury. He can do it all at an elite level and is back (on the ice this time) for his fourth All-Star appearance. MacKinnon, arguably the most valuable player to his team in the NHL, has the speed that rivals that of McDavid, unlimited power moves and loves to shoot as much as any player in the League. It would be a treat to watch him steal the show and get the recognition he deserves as one of the top five players in the game.
Cristina Ledra, senior rewrite editor
Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk had a goal-of-the-year candidate with a dazzling between-the-legs winner in overtime against the Nashville Predators on Oct. 31. His craftiness on offense may not be the part of his game that gets the most headlines, but the gutsy trick shot in the final seconds of overtime was a snapshot of his skillful potential. Factor in that the big All-Star stage is in the city where he was a youth hockey star, and you’ve got the recipe for a breakout moment.
Dan Rosen, senior writer
Had we been doing this exercise Monday, my pick would have been Artemi Panarin. The New York Rangers forward is having a mesmerizing season (68 points; 26 goals, 42 assists) and his stick skills are second to none in the NHL, but it was announced Tuesday that he has an upper-body injury and won’t be in St. Louis. His teammate, forward Chris Kreider, is going instead. Kreider’s athleticism and physical skills are among the best in the game. His speed, especially when he gets a head of steam, is breathtaking. I’m going with Kreider, and I’m very curious to see if he can give McDavid a run should they both be featured in the Bridgestone NHL Fastest Skater. Kreider is a competitor. He’s not going to St. Louis to just wave to the crowd and get some good swag. He’s going to put on a show.
Mike Zeisberger, staff writer
During the European Player Media Tour in Stockholm in August, I asked Pittsburgh Penguins forward Patric Hornqvist a question: If he could be any other NHL player for one day, who would it be? His answer was classic. “That’s easy. It would be Connor McDavid. Just once, I would like to know what it’s like to skate past me that fast at that speed,” he said with a grin. Look, speed thrills, and no one in the sport, maybe ever, has had more of it than McDavid. Assuming he is in the fastest skater event, who wouldn’t want to see the world’s fastest player try to win it for a fourth straight year? That alone would be a must-see. And don’t count him out in the shooting events, either.