Connor McDavid wins the NHL All-Star Skills competition he helped revive

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TORONTO (AP) — Connor McDavid played a big role in redesigning the NHL All-Star skills competition. Then he dominated the new version.

The reigning and three-time MVP took home the $1 million prize while showing once again why he is considered the best hockey player in the world. And he did so as a local hero in the arena where he grew up watching games, to the delight of his hometown crowd.

McDavid helped the league and union fix the skills competition after thinking in previous years it had gotten “a little gimmicky, a little out there.” With his assist, it went back to the basics, and the Edmonton Oilers captain shined with the spotlight on him.

“I thought it was entertaining,” McDavid said. “I know from a competitive side, it definitely got competitive out there. I was huffing and puffing. Guys were working hard, trying to put on a good show. I feel like we did that. I think we can feel good about it. Ultimately, it’s up to the fans, and hopefully they enjoyed it.”

McDavid finished first in the fastest skater, winning that event for the fourth time in his career, and stick-handling, and he went 4 for 4 in accuracy shooting.

“Obviously he’s the epitome of competitiveness on a daily basis, so I’m not surprised,” Oilers teammate Leon Draisaitl said.

Three players from the Western Conference rival Colorado Avalanche also put on a show. Nathan MacKinnon won the one-timers event, while Cale Makar had the hardest shot at 102.56 mph. Goaltender Alexandar Georgiev made nine saves — on McDavid — in one on one to win $100,000.

“It’s a really fun challenge,” Georgiev said. “I love going against Connor. Congratulations to him. He’s awesome, so fun to watch.”

The prize money was one of the new wrinkles at the redesigned skills competition that featured just 12 players and was supposed to be streamlined and simplified.

“I think guys like it,” Draisaitl said. “I don’t know how it was received on TV, but I thought it was good.”

Fans cheered Maple Leafs All-Stars Auston Matthews and William Nylander and booed Nikita Kucherov multiple times when they didn’t appreciate his lack of effort in the passing and stick-handling events. Kucherov even waved to the crowd after finishing dead last in the stick-handling race — over 44 seconds, well behind McDavid’s winning time of 25.755 seconds and slower than David Pastrnak, who missed the net.

“You sit there for like three hours and then you get to go stick-handle,” Kucherov said. “That was kind of tough.”

Unsurprisingly, Kucherov was one of four players eliminated after the first six events. The Tampa Bay Lightning winger and 2019 MVP enjoyed being booed.

They also applauded McDavid, a native of Richmond Hill in suburban Toronto who rooted for the Leafs as a kid.

“Toronto fans have always showed a lot of love to me when I’ve been in town, and it means a lot,” McDavid said. “The building means a lot. The fans have always treated me really well, and it means a lot to hear them cheer.”

Connor Bedard, the top pick in the draft by the Chicago Blackhawks and the front-runner for NHL rookie of the year before breaking his jaw Jan. 5, made a surprise appearance as a passer for the one-timers event, along with Sidney Crosby, the player he grew up idolizing. Bedard was picked to participate before the injury.

“You feel for him,” said McDavid, who like Crosby, Bedard and MacKinnon was a No. 1 pick. “I’m sure he’s wishing he could partake in some of the events. It was great to see him on the ice and looking healthy and looking like he’s close to coming back.”

Leafs alumni Doug Gilmour and Steve Thomas and Toronto Professional Women’s Hockey League players and Canadian Olympians Sarah Nurse and Blayre Turnbull served as passers in accuracy shooting. Nurse and Turnbull were among the players who took part in the PWHL 3-on-3 showcase Thursday night.

On Friday night, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly presented McDavid with a large novelty check. He gets real money, and the humble 27-year-old said he hadn’t put much thought into how he’d spend it.

“I’m going to have some teammates back home that are going to be very interested in what I’m going to do with it, but I’m going to have to try to figure it out,” McDavid said.

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AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl

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