ST. LOUIS — In many respects, Mathew Barzal streaked into prominence quite a while ago. On Friday, he did it officially.
The Islanders’ first-line center, appearing in his second straight All-Star Game, unseated three-time champion Connor McDavid in the Bridgestone NHL’s fastest skater competition during the All-Star Weekend skills competition at the Enterprise Center.
“I don’t think I could’ve skated a better lap,” Barzal said. “You don’t really [practice something like that at all] . . . You kind of just go into it a deer in the headlights a little bit.”
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.
“Even when Connor was coming around the last turn, I think he was at eight or nine seconds, and I said, ‘I don’t think I’m holding up,’ ” Barzal said. “I guess I got lucky.”
“He flies,” McDavid had said of Barzal. “He skates like the wind. He’s definitely a player who’s fun to watch and I have fun watching him.”
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.
Friday’s skills competition also was notable in its increased involvement with women’s hockey. For the first time, the All-Star Game included Canadian and American women’s All-Stars, who competed with each other in a three-on-three.
Kendall Coyne Schofield, who made history last year by competing in the men’s 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,” she 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].”