BRIGHTON — Hunter Skinner always knew he had a knock, but he never had a way of knowing precisely how badly.
It turns out that few players at any level of the sport can hit the numbers Skinner can hit when his shot is measured by a radar gun.
Skinner, an American Hockey League defenseman who lives in Pinckney, had the hardest shot for the second straight year at the All-Star Made in Michigan Elite League skills competition Wednesday night at Kensington Valley Ice House.
Skinner threw a shot that recorded 107.2 miles per hour on the first of his four attempts, a number approaching the two highest recorded shots in hockey history.
Former Detroit Red Wing Martin Frk of the Ontario Reign, the main affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings, hit 109.2 in the 2020 AHL skills competition. He broke the record of 108.8 established by future Hall of Fame defenseman Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins during the 2012 NHL All-Star Skills Competition.
By comparison, Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning won the NHL’s toughest shooting contest last season with 103.2.
Skinner, who played 49 games for the New York Rangers branch in Hartford last season, won the Made in Michigan contest last year at 102.
Until last year’s contest, “I knew I had something close to 100, but nothing like it,” he said.
The hit that reached 107.2 looked no different than any other hit he took.
“The first one, I actually thought I kinda sniffed it,” Skinner said. “I must have grabbed a little piece of it, so that’s good.”
He then recorded 103.6, 105.1 and 103.8 on his final three shots. The only other player to break the 100 mark was Grant Gabriele, from Brighton, who hit 101.3. Gabriele joined the AHL’s Providence Bruins in March after ending his career at Ohio State.
“It’s a good time,” Skinner said. “We are all here to have fun. We are all friends. We all live next to each other, grew up with each other. Just a little competition and a good time.
The fastest skater was Dominic James, a Plymouth native who is on the US roster for the upcoming World Junior Championships in Edmonton. James lapped the ice in 12.43 seconds, unsure if he had set a time that could win.
“Everybody looked quick,” said James, who just finished his first season at Minnesota-Duluth. “You really don’t know until they say so.”
James, a center, was in Edmonton for the World Juniors when the event was canceled Dec. 29 due to rising COVID cases. The Americans had played one exhibition game and one round robin game when the tournament was called off, to be rescheduled for Aug. 9-20.
“You’re excited to get there, to finally get to Canada, and then get shut down,” James said. “Everything happened so fast. I’m happy to have another opportunity.
“It means everything to wear the United States crest. There’s a bunch of great guys in this team. I love the coaches. I’m excited for this opportunity.
Hartland’s Declan Carlile won the shooting accuracy contest. Carlile hit all four targets in 21.65 seconds, taking nine shots.
“It’s quite difficult,” Carlile said. “The targets were a little smaller than I thought, a little off center. I didn’t think I had done very well. Then watching everyone leave, I guess it was OK, so that was kind of fun.
Carlile, a defenseman, signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning after his career at Merrimack College ended in March. He played 10 games with the Lightning AHL team at Syracuse, scoring one goal and two assists in 10 games.
“It was different,” Carlile said. “It was faster. Everyone is bigger. They took their time getting me settled there, which was good. They kind of made it easy for me in there. It just prepared me for next season.
At the end of the evening, the eight teams competing in the league staged a playoff tournament of three-on-three games played with a five-minute clock. The all-Brighton team of Gabriele, David Keefer, Collin Adams and Luke Morgan won the event.
The Made in Michigan Elite League brings together the top professional, college, junior, and high school players from Southeast Michigan each summer. Matches are played on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays in Kensington Valley.
This year’s league features two players who saw NHL action last season. Canton’s Paul Cotter scored two goals in seven games with the Vegas Golden Knights and White Lake’s Ronnie Attard had two goals and two assists in 15 games with the Philadelphia Flyers late in his career at Western Michigan University .
Contact Bill Khan at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @BillKhan.