ALLENTOWN, Pa. – David Warsofsky stepped up to the blue line in preparation of his showcase event at the 2017 AHL All-Star Skills Competition, the CCM Hardest Shot. After a few strides used to reach a stationary puck, Warsofsky unloaded a slap shot at the empty net with radar guns positioned nearby.
He went through those same motions again for a second attempt. He uncorked another slapper, drawing oohs and aahs from the crowd at PPL Center before his score registered on the big screen at center ice. When the result came in, it showed 98.4 mph.
Warsofsky’s slap shot was the second-strongest in the competition at the time, and ultimately finished fourth overall but just nine-tenths of a mile per hour behind the event’s winning score.
At all levels, the hardest shot event is usually dominated by the biggest players on the ice. The likes of Zdeno Chára and Shea Weber have legendary reputations for their record-setting slap shots, and Kyle Wood, tonight’s winner, was the biggest entrant in the competition. Warsofsky, on the other hand, impressed everyone with his score because he stands at five-foot-nine, 170 lbs.
Warsofsky’s showing at the Skills Competition and throughout this entire season has proven it’s not always the biggest guys that pack the biggest punch on their shots. It’s all about the technique.
“I think it’s just the way he releases it,” said Warsofsky’s partner at the Skills Competition, Tristan Jarry. “He’s a smart player, and he’s figured out how to get everything out of his shot even though he’s not that big. We’ve seen it many times this year, and he’s helped us out a lot with that shot.”
Warsofsky’s head coach – with both the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and All Star weekend with the Atlantic Division – Clark Donatelli, offered his explanation for why the small-statured Warsofsky is able to get so much power on his shots by drawing comparisons to another sport.
“You know, it’s like that same thing with the bat speed and hitters in baseball,” Donatelli said. “It’s about the way you hit it. He’s got a great shot, and we all know it. Obviously, it’s less about how big and strong you are. It’s about where you make contact and how you transfer your weight. Bigger guys have an advantage in that they have more weight to move, but in [Warsofsky]’s case, it’s all about the technique and putting it all together for a great shot.”
That shot has helped Warsofsky add nine goals to his All-Star caliber résumé that includes 33 points in 30 games this season. Even if that stat line wasn’t convincing enough for opponents, he now has 98.4 reasons making sure no one will be underestimating this “little guy’s” big abilities any time soon.
• Tristan Jarry had a good night, himself. He stopped five of 10 shots faced in the hellacious AHL Live Rapid Fire event, then improved to a perfect three-for-three in the Pass and Score. The Pass and Score featured three Western Conference opponents coming in on Jarry with one puck and no defenders in the way. It was perhaps the most impressive showing of all the eight goalies who took part in the event.
“It’s no fun to get scored on, so it’s always a competition,” Jarry said. “It’s one of those things where you can’t think too much and just follow the puck, read the play. We practice that a lot, actually. We do a lot of three-on-oh’s and five-on-oh’s, so the guys actually had me really prepared for that.”
• Unsurprisingly, the Penguins’ All-Stars were booed heavily when announced at PPL Center, home of the rival Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Jarry couldn’t contain his smile when the crowd erupted with displeasure at the mention of his name. Clark Donatelli held his composure a bit better when the cameras cam his way, but said afterwards that that kind of hostility is part of what makes these events enjoyable.
“They’re rivals! They can’t take a night off to like us,” Donatelli said. “I think that makes it more fun, though. The rivalries in Pennsylvania, they’re good for the fans. And when the fans are into it, it’s more fun for the guys on the ice, too.”