ST. LOUIS—In many respects, Mathew Barzal streaked into prominence quite a while ago. On Friday, he did it officially.
The Islanders’ first-line centre, appearing in his second straight all-star game, unseated three-time champion Connor McDavid in the fastest skater competition during the NHL skills competition at the Enterprise Center.
Barzal, an electric current on skates, completed his loop in 13.175 seconds, edging the Oilers’ McDavid, who came in at 13.215. Barzal and McDavid were the final two to go.
Up until then, the Rangers’ Chris Kreider, in his first all-star appearance, held the lead. He skated first and set the tone with a time of 13.509. Kreider was McDavid’s pick to win it all. That said, McDavid knew Barzal would be a handful, and he expressed that a few hours before taking the ice.
“He flies,” McDavid said. “He skates like the wind. He’s definitely a player who’s fun to watch and I have fun watching him.”
Friday’s skills competition also was notable for increased involvement with women’s hockey. For the first time, the mid-season showcase included Canadian and American women’s all-stars, who competed in a three-on-three game. Kendall Coyne Schofield, who made history last year by competing in the fastest skater competition, said she hopes this is a sign of things to come.
“I think when you watch the women’s game, there are perceptions that maybe it’s slower or maybe it’s not as physical or maybe they’re not as talented, they’re not as big,” Schofield said. “We’ve heard it our whole life. But I would say we’re equally as entertaining …
“I think when the fans watch the game, they’ll see 20 incredible women out there and hopefully encourage them to watch more).”
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