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ALL-STAR STRUCK

BY JAMIE UMBACH

T

hey're supernovas in a sky of stars.

The North Stars of the NHL's constellation.

Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl stretched their star trails to St. Louis, aligning with the rest of the League's best for NHL All-Star Weekend.

The Dynamic Duo had been on a collision course with the rest of their celestial companions for the 49 games that preceded their arrival at the Enterprise Center, sitting atop the NHL's scoring race with almost near identical numbers of 76 and 75 points.

Sprinkles of stardust from the League's brightest during Media Day left a trail of awe and wonder for the Oilers forwards, who then shone brightly as Orange & Blue representatives of Edmonton in the Skills Competition and Team Pacific in the 3-on-3 tournament.

Follow along below as these stars shot their way through All-Star Weekend.

There's this legend.

A tale of two teammates named Connor and Leon, who arrived at All-Star Weekend on track to become the fourth pair of teammates in the last 30 seasons to finish #1 and #2 in League scoring at the end of the regular season.

While they wouldn't be able to tell their own story among the sea of superstars that Thursday at All-Star Media Day due to weather and travel days, the NHL's best from the Stifel Theatre in St. Louis lent their insight into the epic that had been unfolding for the Dynamic Duo as the ones who bear the brunt of their domination.

"Of course, the scoring race shows for itself," Elias Pettersson, a Pacific Division opponent with the Vancouver Canucks, said. "McDavid and Draisaitl are on top for a reason, and they play really good together. They've carried their team a lot of games. It's impressive and it's fun to play against them."

Some acknowledge it's not a new thing following Draisaitl's 50-goal conquest and McDavid's 116-point campaign in '18-19.

Even certain who know their impact on the game and the city of Edmonton as former superstars and members of the Oilers themselves emphasized what the Duo has been able to accomplish on their own and together under a Blue & Orange banner.

"They're both having great years," said Chris Pronger, a member of the Oilers 2005-06 Stanley Cup Playoff run. "Connor's obviously done it the last three or four years and Leon the last couple - 50 last year and on pace to do it again. It's exciting for their team and they're doing better, which is more exciting for them. They've had some struggles there and certainly are off to a good start."

"Draisaitl impresses me every time I watch him play," former Oilers netminder Curtis Joseph said. "A combination of power, speed, and scoring touch."

"They're probably the best dynamic duo in the league."

Sometimes you just can't put it into words, but Vegas Golden Knights forward Max Pacioretty was keen to get as many as he could out of McDavid in the neighbouring stall of the Pacific Division's dressing room.

"You can't really put it into words," he said. "You don't get how someone can be that good at the sport. People who don't watch the game often and then watch him play, I've heard them ask 'why is he so much better than everyone?' and 'why is he so much faster than everyone?' There's no answer and I plan on asking him what he did as a kid growing up and maybe I can teach my kids how to skate like him.

"Nobody's been able to it thus far. Every night you see Edmonton play, you try to switch to that channel to watch him."

Arriving ahead of Friday's Skills Competition, McDavid happy just to have any involvement.

A tear to his PCL in the last game of the regular season on April 4 put his '19-20 season in jeopardy, but the Oilers captain arrived in St. Louis the leader of the Pacific Division as the NHL's leading scorer with 76 points in 49 games.

McDavid's media scrum prior to the Skills Competition was well-anticipated and well-attended as outlets clamoured for a quote from the NHL superstar who defied the odds to return to the All-Star Game to defend his Fastest Skater title for the third season.

The entire process would be chronicled for the first time in the debut of the documentary 'Connor McDavid: Whatever It Takes' on Sportsnet later that Friday evening.

"I had some of the smartest people in rehab around me. I had one living with me three or four days a week, five days a week sometimes, and it was busy," McDavid said. "It was an every-day thing right from when you wake up to when you go to sleep, and that's what had to happen."

Losing the mantle of the NHL's Fastest Skater title to Mathew Barzal by 0.40 of a second didn't move the needle on who players truly revere as the League's quickest with the puck on his stick, including the one who dethroned him.

"I still think he's the fastest skater in the league," Barzal said post-event. "I think I caught him at a good time."

Draisaitl, the NHL's reigning Premier Passer from 2019, cracked the post on the 10th attempt against Jordan Binnington in the Save Streak competition to the Blues netminder the moment in the spotlight in front of the St. Louis locals.

The German looked to have Accuracy Shooting nailed down with a time of 10.217 seconds until late fill-in and Hurricanes defenceman Jaccob Slavin stole the event at the last hurdle at 9.505 seconds.

"I thought it was a good time. It was decent," Draisaitl said post-Skills. "Slavin thought otherwise, so good on him."

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NHL All-Star Weekend shared the stage with women's hockey for the Elite Women's 3-on-3 that brought the intensity to the Enterprise Center in a 2-1 win for Canada - including Sarah Nurse, cousin to Oilers defenceman Darnell Nurse.

"I think when you think of a typical All-Star Game, it's pretty lackadaisical out there, but that was a Canada vs. USA rivalry," Nurse said. "We battle with each other constantly, so there was a lot of pride on the line. It was nice that we were able to come out on top."

Without a domestic league to call their own, the 3-on-3 showdown spotlighted the incredible talent in the women's game and continued a run of their inclusion in the NHL's All-Star Weekend events to three seasons.

"I think it was a fabulous event," Nurse said. "For the current state of women's hockey and what we're doing this year, it was really the perfect event for us to showcase our game and really get that visibility and exposure. We definitely have a lot of thanks for the NHL because it went really well and it was a lot of fun."

Name the more iconic duo:

McDavid and Draisaitl, or the Pacific Division and winning All-Star Weekend?

During their respective regular seasons, the Pacific All-Stars wage war against one another in the League's most competitive division. But for that one Saturday in St. Louis, the Dynamic Duo were two parts of a Pacific return to the top for a third All-Star Game championship in five seasons after falling short in the semi-finals last year.

The pair connected three times against the Central Division - twice on two of Draisaitl's three goals and once with assists on Tomas Hertl's hat-trick goal - as the Pacific advanced to the final with a 10-5 opening win.

In the final against the Atlantic Division, Draisaitl levelled the score before the Duo recorded both assists on the game-winning goal from Hertl to take the All-Star crown with a 5-4 victory.

Draisaitl posted four goals and two assists, while McDavid chipped in with five helpers in their second All-Star Game together representing the Oilers.

Wayne Gretzky routinely came between the Duo on the bench to offer his wisdom as a Coach. But even for the League's top two goalscorers, following the on-ice instruction of The Great One a task easily completed.

"He told us to try whatever he used to do, but it's impossible," Draisaitl said.

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