The 2014 AHL All Star Skills Competition was a rather good show last night. It pitted the AHL All Stars up against professional players from Färjestad BK of the Swedish Elite League. On the Nashville Predators organization side of things: this entire head-to-head is fun to watch because we get to see two young up and comers in the system. Colton Sissons and Pontus Åberg.
I’m very familiar with Sissons and what he can do, but this was really my first chance to sit down and watch Åberg play – and he took part in the Skills Competition a whole lot more than Sissons. So, how’d our boys do?
Åberg took part in the first event of the night: the puck control relay. This event featured a burst of speed down to one end and then a series of cones to stickhandle through en route to the finish. Åberg competed in the opening three-man relay and was the second of his group to go out. When he took off he was trailing Frederic St. Denis of the Springfield Falcons. After his turn through the course Färjestad BK had a very good cushion that helped them go on and win that first relay race. I was rather impressed by the 20-year old Swede’s explosiveness from out of the gate. His start gave him a good gap, but it was his smooth stick work on the cones that helped him out even more. Simple event. Lots of little qualities that could be measured. I liked what I saw.
The third event of the night was the Rapid Fire competition and our first look at Sissons on the Skills stage. I have to be completely honest with you. Whoever organized this event really set him up to fail. The setup of the Rapid Fire competition was two shooters, both on the opposite sides of the crease, five pucks, one shooter at a time, as quickly as they can hammer a shot. Sissons, a right handed shot, was paired with another right handed shot in Brenden Kichton of the St. John’s IceCaps. Where would the ideal place on the ice be for a right handed shooter be in this situation? The left wing. Where was Sissons placed? The right wing. Kichton went three-for-five of his attempts for goals while Sissons missed all five shots against Frederik Pettersson-Wentzel‘s glove-side. Seeing how that turned out, when most shooters after that where paired lefty and righty, seemed a bit daft.
Åberg then took part in the Hardest Shot competition and hammered a shot at 99.5 mph. Each shooter had three chances. He accomplished that on his first shot and each of his next two were weaker than the next. Nothing to really learn from something like this – but gosh darn was his teammate Magnus Nygren‘s shot of 104.6 mph awesome!
The Åberg Show continued in the next event, Accuracy Shooting. This was somewhat of a disappointment out of him. He hit the four targets on net on eight chances. That put him on equal footing for second lowest in the competition with the Rochester Americans’ Luke Adam – and one better than Ben Street of the Abbotsford Heat (who went three of eight).
The last rodeo for the two Nashville hopefuls came on the Breakaway Challenge. Sissons. Admirals. Shootout. Hey, he has some experience for this scenario at least right? In truth, this season in the shootout for the Admirals he has missed all three chances he has taken and hasn’t factored into the last four shootout games. So, up he went… forehand to backhand and stopped by Pekka Tuokkola.
Speaking of which…
Notice anything from Tuokkola’s mask yet? Well you should, because Magnus Hellberg certain does… not just once… but twice. The reason being is that Hellberg is from Uppsala, Sweden – where the story of Pelle Svanslös, aka Peter No-Tail, originates from. So, why would the Finnish goaltender Tuokkola use Pelle while playing for a Swedish team that is on the opposite side of Sweden from Uppsala? Hurm… Perhaps Hellberg is just a trendsetter? (I digress)
Next up was Åberg. He was actually forced to shoot against a familiar foe to us Admirals fans in Chicago Wolves netminder Jake Allen – the bloke who shut the door on us just this past Sunday in a shootout. Åberg skated in straight, maintained his shooting stance on the forehand the entire way in, did a shoulder pump, and fired right through Allen’s glove. It was rather impressive. I guess, so much so, he tried doing the same move later on in the sudden death portion of the event… where he fooled no one.
The AHL All Stars managed to win the Skills event against Färjestad BK in the sudden death scenario of the shootout. In heroic fashion too – I might add. With the event held in St. John’s it was cool to see captain Jason Jaffray not only score the shootout goal to force sudden death – but also the clincher. Pretty fun for the fans up there – and a great way to set the table for what should be a competitive and exciting AHL All Star Classic.
Did you catch the AHL Skills Competition? If so, what did you make of our two members of the Nashville organization? Will you be tuning in tonight for the AHL All Star Classic?