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Seeing Stars

Mathew Barzal reflects upon his second and memorable All-Star Weekend experience

by Sasha Kandrach KandrachSasha / NewYorkIslanders.com

Mathew Barzal was among the stars as he entered his second All-Star Weekend in St. Louis excited for the experience to represent the Islanders among a crop of the NHL's elite.

With last year's appearance under his belt he had a better understanding of what to expect, but this weekend, he made his name known.

"It's always fun being here," Barzal said. "You try to go out and entertain the fans a bit. The whole weekend has been great."

Barzal made a fast impression on fans at Friday night's Skills Competition - literally. The 22-year-old center dethroned three-time Fastest Skater champion Connor McDavid with a lightning lap of 13.175. That was a half-second better than his third-place attempt last season (13.780).

Video: Fastest Skater: Barzal dethrones McDavid to win title

"I don't think I could have skated a better lap," Barzal said. "I don't know if I could do it again."

Prior to the Fastest Skater, Barzal sported his slick style on the NHL's red carpet, rocking a camouflage blazer.

Tweet from @NYIslanders: 🔥 lookin��� F L Y 🔥 pic.twitter.com/voW9h04lPQ

While the cameras were focused on the Islanders all-star, something different caught Barzal's eye, as he spotted two young Isles fans hanging over the barricade. Barzal stopped to take a picture with a couple of young fans and hockey players from Long Island and throughout the weekend, was pleased to see the Blue and Orange well represented.

"It's actually been crazy to see how many Islander fans this week are here," Barzal said. "I love the support from the fans. Kudos to them for flying out to support the house."

Instagram from @ny_islanders: Our #NHLAllStar walking the Red Carpet! ✨We almost didn't see him! 😉🤩

Last year in the three-on-three tournament, Barzal and the Metropolitan Division team were the champions and split the one-million-dollar grand prize. The Coquitlam, British Columbia native was paired alongside Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang and left a lasting impression. After all, three-on-three was practically made for a player like Barzal.

"He's a tremendous player and brings so much to the table," Letang said. "The speed obviously, and the skill. He's just a tremendous young player. I had the chance to play on the same line as him last year. It was an easy game, just give him the puck and let him work his magic... He's going to be a star for a long time. As a defender, he's really tough to defend. He has so many tools it's hard."

Letang was this year's captain of the Metropolitan team and the goal for the squad was to repeat, but they ultimately fell short, losing 9-5 to the Atlantic Division team in the first game on Saturday night.

"You don't go into it trying to lose," Barzal said. "You go out there, you're going at a decent clip and you're trying to win. There's some money on the line. It's a fun event, you're trying to entertain. I think we did a good job."

Barzal showcased his usual playmaking abilities as he registered two assists to setup both of his linemates T.J. Oshie and John Carlson of the Washington Capitals. The Capitals and Islanders have gone head-to-head this season (1-1-0) with both contests decided by a one-goal margin.

Usually, the Caps and Isles are used to hostile games against each other, so for Oshie, having Barzal on his side for once opposed to facing off against the shifty playmaker was a nice change of pace.

"His skill level is off the charts," Oshie said. "His skating, stick handling, vision on the ice. Would have liked to put up some more goals, but it's nice trying to get open and to have him find me instead of having him chase me around the ice and not get made a fool of."

Oshie wasn't the only player Barzal has caught the attention and admiration of. David Pastrnak of the Boston Bruins, the league-leader in goals who was also named the MVP of the All-Star Game, praised his Eastern Conference foe.

"His speed is unbelievable and his work on edges is outstanding," Pastrnak said. "It's very impressive what he can do on his skates. He's a great player."

Across the country, Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche admitted to being mesmerized by Barzal's dominance on the puck and slick stickhandling.

"I think his first year he had like 90 points and took everyone by surprise," MacKinnon said. "What an amazing player. I think he leads the league in possession. The puck is always on his stick. I love watching him. He's another guy [I love to watch] There's so many players, but he's up there. He's a pretty special player."

PHOTOS: BARZAL AT 2020 ALL-STAR WEEKEND

With St. Louis hosting the weekend, natives Jenna Fischer and Jon Hamm were in attendance and were honorary captains of the Atlantic Division and Metropolitan Division teams. Outside of winning the Fastest Skater honors, Barzal admitted that meeting Pam from "The Office" in real life was a bit of a starstruck moment.

"I'm a huge Office fan so to see Jenna today was probably one of the coolest moments of the weekend," Barzal revealed with a grin. "I watch a lot of The Office so to see The Office was pretty cool."

While Barzal entertained another impressive showing at All-Star Weekend, the experience itself of sharing the ice with players whom he looks up to like Chicago's Patrick Kane and players whom he grew up with like Philadelphia's Travis Konecny and Toronto's Mitch Marner was the perfect setting. Barzal is a fierce competitor on the ice, so he enjoyed the fact that players, coaches and fans to put their differences aside to spend the weekend sharing their passion for the sport that unites them.

"You battle in season," Barzal said. "You get here you laugh and talk about some of the things that maybe happened in season and what not. Other than that, you don't come to the All-Star Game in a bad mood. Everyone's having a good time and enjoying themselves. It's easy to get along...It was a great weekend."

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