NHL – Connor McDavid wins revamped NHL all-star skills competition in Toronto, $1M US prize

Oilers star triumphs in fastest skater, stick handling, shooting accuracy and obstacle course events

A male ice hockey player stick handles around an obstacle course.

Oilers captain Connor McDavid competes in the obstacle course event at the NHL all-star skills competition on Friday night at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Connor McDavid helped the NHL revamp its sagging skills competition.

The Edmonton Oilers captain then went out and won the $1-million US prize.

McDavid took the fastest skater, stick handling, shooting accuracy and obstacle course events Friday in Toronto after assisting the league in re-imagining a part of all-star festivities that had lost much of its lustre in recent years.

“I thought it was entertaining,” McDavid said. “Definitely got competitive out there. I was huffing and puffing. Guys were working hard, trying to put on a good show. I feel like we did that. I think we can feel good about it.

“Ultimately, it’s up to the fans, and hopefully they enjoyed it.”

Colorado Avalanche defenceman Cale Makar finished second followed by Maple Leafs sniper Auston Matthews and Toronto teammate William Nylander.

“A lot of fun,” Matthews said. “Pretty competitive for the most part. As it started to wind down, you could see guys putting in some pretty big efforts.

“It was well done.”

David Pastrnak (Boston), Nathan MacKinnon (Colorado), Leon Draisaitl (Edmonton), Nikita Kucherov (Tampa Bay), Elias Pettersson (Vancouver), Mathew Barzal (New York Islanders), J.T. Miller (Vancouver) and Quinn Hughes (Vancouver) made up the rest of the field.

‘Good change of scenery’

Last year’s disappointing skills showcase in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., featured events on both a golf course and at the beach — an overall flop that pushed the NHL to look to rekindle interest from both players and fans.

“We’re staying active and it’s not just kind of sitting there for three hours after we do one event,” Makar said. “A good change of scenery for us this year.”
The skills event followed Thursday’s all-star player draft ahead of Saturday’s four-team tournament at Scotiabank Arena.
The 12 players took part in four of the first six events — the fastest skater, hardest shot, stick handling and one-timers, plus passing and shooting accuracy — with points awarded to each competitor.

The field was then cut down to eight once goaltenders were introduced for the one-on-one showdown.

Two more competitors were shed heading into the final obstacle course event.

Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby was also on the ice throughout the night along with injured Chicago centre and 2023 No. 1 pick Connor Bedard.

McDavid won the fastest skater for a fourth time, finishing his blazing lap of the Scotiabank Arena ice in 13.408 seconds to top Barzal (13.519), who beat the three-time NHL MVP in 2020.

Makar, who finished No. 4, said the fact he fell last year was on his mind.

“Once I turned the first corner, I was like, ‘I think I’m good, the ice was pretty good,”‘ he said. “I just wanted to redeem myself…. I still felt like I was off balance a bit.

“It’s tougher than people think.”

MacKinnon won the new one-timer event, which saw points awarded for where the puck hit the net.

Pettersson took the passing accuracy challenge after some fans started to boo Kucherov with the forward appearing to not give enough effort in the event.

“It wasn’t my day,” said the NHL’s leading scorer. “But I was enjoying it.”

Makar wins hardest shot

Makar claimed the hardest shot with a 102.56-mile-per-hour blast. Zdeno Chara’s record of 108.8 miles per hour from 2012, however, is safe for at least one more year.

McDavid captured the stick handling event with a time of 25.755 seconds. Kucherov again ambled through the course, leading to more angst from the crowd that has seen the Tampa forward in the last two playoffs.

A native of nearby Richmond Hill, Ont., competing in his de facto hometown and a rink where he watched the Leafs growing up, McDavid then picked up another victory in the shooting accuracy by going 4-for-4 in just 9.158 seconds after finishing second last year.
“He’s a special player,” Matthews said. “He’s top of the game. I don’t think anybody’s really surprised that he’s walking away with first place and the big check.”

The top eight — McDavid, Makar, Barzal, Pettersson, Matthews, Miller, MacKinnon, Nylander — advanced to the one-on-one shootout event.

Nylander took that competition with a terrific showing that included a one-handed breakaway move from the Swede that was reminiscent of countryman Peter Forsberg’s shootout move in the 1994 Olympics, while Colorado’s Alexandar Georgiev won $100,000 for the best goaltending performance by thwarting McDavid.

Pettersson and MacKinnon were eliminated, leaving six remaining players for the final obstacle course, with McDavid winning in a time of 40.606 seconds.

And the $1-million payday.

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