American Hockey League (AHL)

AHL All-Stars Ethen Frank, Brandt Clarke Steal Show At Skills Competition

AHL All-Stars Ethen Frank, Brandt Clarke Steal Show At Skills Competition

Ethen Frank nearly broke his fastest skater record and Brandt Clarke went four-for-four in accuracy shooting during a night full of memorable moments.

Feb 5, 2024 by Chris Peters
AHL All-Stars Ethen Frank, Brandt Clarke Steal Show At Skills Competition

The AHL All-Star Skills Competition is one of those events on the hockey calendar that might not make the priority list for many hockey fans, but it absolutely should. After a thrilling NHL All-Star Weekend, the AHL is often batting cleanup and the astute hockey fans are going to find entertainment value and fun, but also a group of players that are going to go all out.

This year’s event, held Sunday night in San Jose at TechCU Arena, delivered the goods as it does seemingly every year. The Western Conference All-Stars took an 18-13 win in the Skills Competition, but it’s always the individuals that find a way to stand out.

So let’s take a look at some of the standout performers and best moments from a fun-filled night that showcased some of the NHL stars of tomorrow and the personalities of the AHL All-Stars.

Ethen Frank Does It Again

After setting an AHL All-Star record – and a time that would be the record at the NHL level, too – Ethen Frank narrowly outdid himself with his 2024 effort. The Hershey Bears star forward completed a full-ice lap in 13.032 seconds. His next closest competitor was Spencer Stastney of the Milwaukee Admirals with a 13.415 second lap. 

Frank fell just shy of his 2023 record which was 12.915 – the only time we’ve seen someone break the 13-second mark at either the AHL or NHL level. 

For comparison’s sake, Connor McDavid won the NHL’s fastest skater competition Friday night with a time of 13.408 seconds.

When do we get the McDavid-Frank Skate Off? Who do we have to talk to to make it happen?

Brandt Clarke Goes 4-for-4

Accuracy shooting is one of those fun visual events where we watch players shoot pucks at foam disks, trying to break each in the least amount of shots possible. At the AHL level, we’ve seen only a few players go perfect in the event, but Ontario Reign defenseman and Los Angeles Kings top prospect Brandt Clarke became the latest.

Clarke went a smooth four-for-four in accuracy shooting, going after his older brother Graeme who hit four targets in eight tries. Two other players managed to finish the skill at four-for-six.

The younger Clarke celebrated his win emphatically after breaking the fourth target. You could tell there was a little extra motivation to put one over on big bro who plays for the Utica Comets in the New Jersey Devils system.

Brandt actually bested Graeme earlier in the event when he beat him in a puck relay to secure an additional point for the Western Conference.

After his four-for-four performance, Brandt Clarke told broadcaster Drew Remenda that he “blacked out” as he was shooting.

Mukhamadullin Makes Grand Entrance

If you haven’t heard, the weather in the Bay Area is awful right now. Travel delays caused a number of players to have to miss the event entirely, but there was one who simply couldn’t just miss the whole thing.

After some travel nightmares to get in, San Jose Barracuda defenseman Shakir Mukhamadullin was able to make a grand entrance about halfway through the event. The AHL certainly knows how to energize a crowd. 

They stopped everything and made an announcement over the loud speaker that Mukhamadullin was there and ready to go. The big defenseman, who has also spent time with the San Jose Sharks this year, was greeted to a hero’s welcome.

Shout Out To The Goalies

Skills competitions are not supposed to be goalie friendly, and some of the skills they’re tested on are not. However, the goalies really did put on a show throughout the event, especially in the breakaway challenge.

Each goal during the breakaway challenge counts as a goal for the team. It’s a chance for teams to really make up ground.

Of the 40 shots attempted, only 10 goals were scored as the goalies stole the show. 

Dustin Wolf and Jesper Wallstedt of the Western Conference and Jet Greaves of the Eastern Conference were the three goalies who allowed no goals.

While each looked impressive, the breakaway challenge may be best remembered for the poke-checking hijinks of Milwaukee Admirals goalie Yaroslav Askarov. The Nashville Predators prospect poke-checked Brennan Othmann so hard that he actually lost his blocker in the process. 

He had no blocker or stick for Ethen Frank, but Frank missed the net. Mac Hollowell, the final shooter, managed to sneak one past Askarov after the referee tried to at least get the goalie his blocker back. In the end, it didn’t cost Askarov’s team and we all get to have a good laugh about it now.

The Fan Experience

Our Lizz Child is on the ground in San Jose and I was at this event in Laval, Quebec last year. Whether you’re watching on TV or at the event, it’s impossible not to enjoy it. There’s an effort level and a showmanship to AHL players. 

There’s also a higher-level of fan engagement. For years, the AHL has had their All-Star hosts remove the glass from both sides during the skills competition to allow fans the opportunity to interact with the All-Stars. Many of the players will stick around long after the competition is over, signing autographs, taking photos and sharing a chat with the fans. There are a lot of things this event gets right, but none more than this one.

How To Watch The 2024 AHL All-Star Challenge

The All-Star Challenge gets going Monday night with a total of six games played during a tournament format with four teams, one representing each division in the league.

The entire event streams on AHLtv, with a U.S. television audience getting the game on NHL Network and Canadians can find the game on TSN. The puck is set to drop at 9 p.m. ET.

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