McDavid helped the NHL revamp the skills competition with a back-to-basics approach. The field of players was limited to 12 stars in an effort to build more competition for a $1 million prize. The NHL also jettisoned its pretaped events and judged trick-shot competition in an effort to reorient it back to pure hockey skill.
“It definitely got competitive out there. I was huffing and puffing,” said McDavid, who also won a golden skate trophy. “Guys were working hard trying to put on a good show, and I feel like we did that. Ultimately it’s up to the fans, and I hope they enjoyed it.”
McDavid’s Oilers and All-Star Game teammate, Leon Draisaitl, wasn’t surprised “in the slightest” that McDavid won the event.
“He’s the epitome of competitiveness on a daily basis,” Draisaitl said.
Each player competed in four of the first six events, earning points for their finishes. The top eight players after those events advanced to the one-on-one goalie challenge, and then the top six to the final obstacle course challenge.
McDavid opened up the competition by winning fastest skater for the fourth time in his career, finishing in 13.408 seconds. That was just ahead of New York Islanders forward Mathew Barzal (13.519 seconds), an injury replacement for New Jersey Devils star Jack Hughes, who defeated McDavid in the event at the 2020 All-Star Weekend in St. Louis.
“I wouldn’t really call it a rivalry,” Barzal said with a laugh. “I just couldn’t edge him out in any of the skating stuff. In terms of skating and stickhandling, he sets the bar. I have just a ton of respect for his game and his skating. It really is just poetry in motion.”
The one-timer event featured guest passers in Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby and Chicago Blackhawks rookie sensation Connor Bedard, who was making his first appearance since breaking his jaw in a game on Jan. 5. Bedard was picked to participate before the injury.
“You feel for him,” McDavid said. “I’m sure he’s wishing he could partake in some of the events. It was great to see him on the ice and looking healthy and looking like he’s close to coming back.”
There was also some controversy in the passing challenge, as it appeared Vancouver Canucks star Elias Pettersson didn’t get his final pass off before the buzzer. But it was judged that he had the puck in motion, so it counted, giving him 25 points and the win over Colorado’s Cale Makar (23).
Makar won hardest shot (102.56 mph) in a close competition with Vancouver’s J.T. Miller (102.34 mph).
McDavid won his second event in the stickhandling challenge with a time of 25.755 seconds, and then his third in the shooting accuracy competition with a time of 9.158 seconds. That event featured guest passers in Professional Women’s Hockey League stars Sarah Nurse and Blayre Turnbull, as well as Toronto Maple Leafs legends Steve Thomas and Doug Gilmour.
Eight players advanced to the one-on-one event, where skaters selected which All-Star goalies they wanted to face.
William Nylander of the Leafs had the first pick as the eighth-place skater, choosing Los Angeles Kings goalie Cam Talbot and scoring nine points against him. Avalanche goalie Alexandar Georgiev won $100,000 as the top goalie in the event, stopping McDavid on nine shots after being the last goalie selected.
“Georgiev had my number, for sure,” McDavid said. “He was poke-checking and mixing things up. He made it tough for me.”
“I just tried not to look like a beer league goalie,” Georgiev said.
The six players who advanced to the final event were McDavid, Barzal, Makar, Matthews, Nylander and Miller. Makar led the obstacle course event with a time of 43.435 seconds entering the final round, with McDavid needing to finish second or better.
McDavid won the event in 40.606 seconds to claim the $1 million prize.
“I mean, I knew it was done,” Makar said. “It’s tough to beat that guy. He earned it.”
The NHL All-Star Game is Saturday afternoon, featuring a 3-on-3 tournament pitting four teams drafted on Thursday night against each other.