Carolina Hurricanes: Sebastian Aho Shines in Skills Comp

Sebastian Aho is enjoying himself as he represents the Carolina Hurricanes at the NHL All-Star Weekend – but how did he fare in the Skills Comp, and how will he and his team mates fare in the $1m main event?

San Jose can throw a show can’t they? Last year I was fortunate enough to get tickets to the All-Star game and see Noah Hanifin represent the Carolina Hurricanes. As one of the first skaters to try to beat Connor McDavid in the fastest skater competition, a competition that he has, as of last night, championed thrice in a row, it felt like the opportunity to see Carolina shine went by as fast as it got there (pun not intended). This year, with the Canes represented solely by Sebastian Aho, was different.

The whole event felt a little different. It started on a completely different note too. While last year Hilary Knight, the captain of the female US Olympic (soon to be gold medal-winning) team, was on the ice she was relegated to simply demonstrating the events to the men who seemed to have a hard time matching her demonstrations. This year her teammate Kendall Coyne Schofield was invited to race against McDavid and the rest of the men, with the opportunity to win.

She didn’t manage to beat McDavid, but she did best at least one man – the Arizona Coyotes’ Clayton Keller. I found the whole thing very refreshing, and on behalf of hockey fans all around the globe, let me say: add more women to the All-Star Skills Events! Hilary Knight could have beaten some of these scores! This point was driven home even more when Brianna Decker, another teammate of hers, was asked to make a demonstration of the event Sebastian Aho participated in: the Premier Passer Challenge.

Sebastian Aho started 3rd in this event. He immediately made an impact, as all eyes were on him. The first two competitors, Erik Karlsson and Mikko Rantanen, each went for at least 1:58 in the event. So when Sebastian Aho timed a 1:18 finish it seemed like he had blown his competition off of the ice. And so it remained true until Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl took the ice and shaved another 9 seconds off of Aho’s time to push Aho down to second place.

Or was it third?

Apparently, not shown on TV, Decker had an even better score than all of the men, demolishing them by timing 1:06. That I would have liked to have seen. It is time to invite more women to the Skills Competition and enhance the experience. Perhaps mesh the NHL, NWHL, CWHL All-Stars and pit the best from each league against each other. The value of that would be worth more than the sum of all parts.

3v3 All Star Games

Tonight, Sebastian Aho and his Metro Division team mates will battle for a $1 million prize. Can Todd Reirden coach this team to that championship? Last year, the Metro was knocked out in the first round and never had a chance to challenge the Atlantic Division for the title. While Alex Ovechkin isn’t playing this year, the Hardest Shot Challenge was won by his teammate John Carlson. That should give the Metro an edge against the two teams they will have to challenge.

Having Henrik Lundqvist, winner of the Save Streak Challenge in net will definitely help the odds of winning. Hopefully Sidney Crosby, who missed yesterday’s festivities with an illness, will be feeling a little better and able to attend the games tonight. Guys like him, Cam Atkinson, and Mathew Barzal would be wonderful to watch matched up with Aho in a 3v3 skirmish. Expect Aho to post lots of goals and assists with this talented group

Their first matchup will be against the Atlantic Division. Last year they were tough and this year they remain tough. Andrei Vasilevskiy, who is replacing Carey Price, also had a good showing in the Save Streak Challenge. Jeff Skinner will be joining his new teammate Jack Eichel as well as mainstays from last year such as Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov. This would probably be their toughest rival of the night. Hopefully it won’t be their only rival of the night.

Afterwards they will face a division from the west, either the Pacific or the Central. The Central doesn’t impress me as much as the pacific does. McDavid, Draisaitl, Pettersson, and Karlsson all on the same team? Yikes, that is a STACKED team. Fleury and Gibson in net to boot? Watch out! If the Metro defeats the Atlantic, it will likely have to face another scary ocean-named team. But for some reason, I am not as worried, perhaps because Bill Peters is behind the bench.

Game 1 Prediction: Pacific 9-3 Central

Game 2 Prediction: Metro 8-5 Atlantic

Game 3 Prediction: Metro 5-4 Pacific

Question for CC Readers: 

How do you feel about Sebastian Aho’s performance last night? Was Brianna Decker robbed of an opportunity to show up the men? Which team will win the $1 Million prize?