All-star games themselves normally aren't overly meaningful or entertaining, but the NHL may very well have the best All-Star weekend in sports. It isn't because of the game, rather it is the skills competition which will take place on Saturday night.
The skills competition has been a staple of the NHL's All-Star weekend since 1990, and it provides fans with a glimpse at an awesome display of ability. There are several events in place, but the traditional competitions that have become staples are the fastest skater, accuracy shooting and hardest shot.
Here are three players with the potential to break or tie the record in each of those competitions this year.
Fastest Skater: Erik Karlsson
Depending on who you ask, the fastest skater competition very well may be the most exciting contest of the night. Some of the fastest skaters in NHL history have taken part in the event, so naturally there have been some impressive times. The current record holder is Hockey Hall of Famer Mike Gartner, who set the mark with a time of 13.386 seconds in 1996. Some players have gotten close since, but nobody has been able to beat it.
My pick to beat Gartner's record would have been New York Rangers forward Marian Gaborik as he won the competition in 2003, but for whatever reason he wasn't selected to partake. With that said, my pick is Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson. Defensemen haven't had the most success in this competition over the years with Scott Niedermayer being the only winner, but Karlsson has incredible speed and has a fighting chance on his home rink.
Accuracy Shooting: Daniel Sedin
The best that a player can possibly do in the accuracy shooting contest, which involves shooting at four targets, is to go four-for-four. That has been done four times over the years—twice by Ray Bourque, once by Mark Messier and once by Jeremy Roenick. The record can't technically be broken, but it can be tied, and I expect Vancouver Canucks forward Daniel Sedin to do just that.
Sedin competed in the competition last year and it took him five shots to break the targets, so he won't need much of an improvement to tie the record. Sedin is the defending Art Ross Trophy winner, so he clearly knows how to put the puck in the net, and to do that he needs an accurate shot. Sedin is very fundamentally sound, so I love his chances.
Who is most likely to set a record in the skills competition?
Hardest Shot: Zdeno Chara
I could try to be creative with this pick, but Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara has been so dominant in the hardest shot competition that it would be stupid to try. Chara has won the competition four years running and he has set a new record two contests in a row. In 2009 Chara broke Al Iafrate's 16-year-old record by firing one 105.4 miles per hour. Chara then broke his own record last year by unleashing a 105.9-mile-per-hour bomb.
Advancements are made in stick technology on a yearly basis and Chara is as big and strong as ever, so I don't see why he wouldn't break his own record yet again. The only person who I can see challenging him is Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber, but even he is a long shot. Big Z has made this his competition and I expect that to continue in 2012.