The margin was miniscule but the split of 0.04 was enough to crown a new champion of the Bridgestone NHL Fastest Skater on Friday night at Enterprise Center. Mathew Barzal dethroned three-time former champ Connor McDavid with an electric lap of 13.175.
The lap wasn't Barzal's first go at the event. Last year, during his first All-Star Weekend appearance, the Coquitlam, British Columbia native placed third behind Jack Eichel and McDavid with a time of 13.780. This year, Barzal went head-to-head against McDavid and Eichel again as well as Nathan MacKinnon, Chris Kreider, Anthony Duclair, Travis Konecny and Quinn Hughes.
"I don't think I could have skated a better lap," Barzal said. "I don't know if I could do it again. It's exciting. You want to try to win. There's a lot of fast skaters out there. To skate a lap like that today; it was fun. It was cool."
Video: Fastest Skater: Barzal dethrones McDavid to win title
Despite contrary belief that practice makes perfect, this event is an anomaly in which Barzal noted it's not something he sets aside time to work on. Instead, he relies on his natural speed.
"You don't, you just don't go skate laps around," Barzal said with a laugh.
Among the other skaters chosen to participate in the event, Barzal and McDavid in particular are known for their exquisite technique on their edges and have perfected an explosive crossover. Even so, Barzal still knew the challenge he was up against as he went just before the reigning champion.
"Even when Connor was coming around that last turn, I think he was at eight or nine seconds," Barzal recalled. "I was like, 'I don't think I'm holding up.' I guess I got lucky."
All-Star weekend is still surreal for the Isles forward who is already making his second All-Star Weekend appearance at 22-years-old. Barzal also becomes the first Isles player to win the Fastest Skater honors since Michael Grabner did so in 2011 with a lap of 14.238.
"I remember growing up watching the fastest skater," Barzal said. "To be in it and to win one, is exciting."