NY Islanders Mat Barzal puts on a show at the NHL Skills Competition but falls to Connor McDavid

Feb 2, 2024; Toronto, Ontario, CANADA; New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal (13) during the
Feb 2, 2024; Toronto, Ontario, CANADA; New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal (13) during the / John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Mat Barzal wasn't a first choice to partake in the NHL Skills Competition but made the field as a replacement for Jack Hughes, who is still out with an injury. With $1 million at stake, the NY Islanders forward didn't disappoint despite having some butterflies entering the night. "I'm a little touch nervous, to be honest with you, seeing some of the players out there."

In one of the most anticipated matchups of the night, Barzal and Connor McDavid were the odds-on favorites in the fastest skater competition. Barzal went fourth of the five skaters, putting up a time of 13.519 seconds. He was the first competitor to break the 14-second mark but needed McDavid to falter to take first place. Proving why he's one of the best skaters in NHL history, McDavid topped Barzal's mark by .1 second, with a time of 13.408.

On to the one-timers competition, this was the competition most people expected Barzal to struggle with. Taking passes from rookie phenom Connor Bedard, Barzal joked that Bedard better be feeding him with perfect passes. " I told him if you miss my wheelhouse, we're gonna have an issue," Barzal said. His 17 points weren't good enough to finish in the top five, as he received zero points for the competition.

Much more within his skillset, Barzal's third event was the passing challenge. Unlike Nikita Kucherov, who went through the motions like he had somewhere better to be, Barzal put in the effort, finishing in third place with 21 points.

Another competition that plays well with Barzal's expertise, he put together another excellent performance in stick-handling, finishing second behind McDavid.

In total, Barzal finished his four competitions with 11 points, finishing the first round tied with Cale Makar and behind only McDavid. With the top-8 advancing, Barzal moved on to round two and the one-on-one challenge.

In this competition, the players selected which goaltender to go against, and of course, Barzal chose NY Rangers netminder Igor Shesterkin. In the one-minute allotted time, Barzal put four pucks past Shesterkin for six points, hitting the post on a between-the-legs shot on his final attempt.

"It was more so that he plays for the Rangers and I knew people back home would be watching,” said Barzal. “He obviously has a relationship with [Ilya] Sorokin, so I thought it'd be fun if I picked him for the New York fanbase"

Barzal put himself into contention entering the final competition, the obstacle course, in second place with 13.5 points, trailing McDavid by 1.5.

This is where the wheels fell off for Barzal. Flying through the first obstacle, Barzal couldn't manage to sauce the puck over a barrier and into tiny nets, as the ice crew needed to bring more pucks over so he could finish the course.

Barzal finished fifth on the night, as McDavid (who helped design the course) took home first place and the $1 million grand prize.

With this being the first year of a revamped skills competition, there was an intensity from mostly all the players competing, and it appears this may be sticking around in upcoming years.