The NHL aren’t the only hockey league with an All-Star game this weekend. The American Hockey League’s festivities kicked off tonight, as representatives from the league’s various teams got together in Syracuse, New York for a skills competition. William Nylander, Josh Leivo, TJ Brennan, and head coach Sheldon Keefe were all there representing the Toronto Marlies, and the players all took part in various events.
First, we have Nylander in the Puck Control relay. He was the third skater in the second heat, pitted against fellow teenage wunderkind Mikko Rantanen of the San Antonio Rampage. A goof-up by Brandon Montour gave Nylander a bit of a head start and boy, did he ever take advantage of it. Nylander bursted down the ice to retrieve his puck and easily deked his way to freedom to put the Eastern Conference up 2-0 in the event.
While none of the three participated in the fastest skater competition, Leivo and Brennan lined up as the first of four Eastern Duos in the rapid fire competition. That’s an intimidating duo if I’ve ever seen them, and it’s not surprising that Laurent Brossoit let in each of their first shots to start the blitz. They were rejected for the bulk of their attempts afterward, but Leivo was able to squeak in his last shot to give the pair a combined 3 for 10 effort.
Surprisingly, TJ Brennan didn’t take a go at the hardest shot competition, but he was one of the few who stepped up for accuracy shooting. Brennan put up a relatively solid effort, knocking down all four targets in seven shots; as good as any of the pros in his conference and tied for third best of all ten participants.
I say “any of the pros” because, as part of the festivities, both conferences were given a pair of local youth players. With that said, the star of the accuracy shooting component was Ryan Kirwan, a 13-year-old who went 4-for-5.
Nylander also participated in the pass and shoot event, with Mike Sislo and Michael McCarron, and all three attempted to score in the breakaway relay. Nylander was the only one to beat his goalie after Peter Budaj attempted and failed to do a two-pad stack to stop his shot.
Tomorrow’s games, which take on a format not significantly different from the NHL’s, begin at 7PM.