The NHL’s redesigned All-Star Skills Competition brought a $1 million prize and renewed excitement to one of the league’s tentpole events of the year.
But you wouldn’t have known all that watching Nikita Kucherov.
In the rebranded event, which had just 12 competitors, the Lightning superstar was eliminated from the competition after just six mini-games.
Kucherov, 30, finished in the middle of the pack in the one-timer challenge, but it was his next time up in the passing challenge where things went poorly — and the Scotiabank Center crowd in Toronto let him hear it.
As he skated down the ice in the event, even the ESPN broadcast noticed Kucherov wasn’t close to pushing things near his full speed and didn’t seem to be trying to hit the passing targets in any meaningful way.
“I’m not sensing a lot of intensity here, Mess,” play-by-play man John Buccigross said to analyst and Rangers legend Mark Messier.
“Not quite enough intensity here whatsoever,” Messier replied with a chuckle.
“This is not a good look, quite frankly,” Buccigross added as the crowd began to grumble as Kucherov was near the end of the challenge. “The fans are booing him, and this is what happens when you don’t try your best and you’re in a hockey city like Toronto — they’re gonna let you know.”
Kucherov’s half-hearted attempt put him in last in the passing challenge, which was 20 points behind the top point-getter, Elias Pettersson.
Things only got worse in the stick handling challenge, and with still little effort, Kucherov again finished at the bottom of the table at 44.178 seconds, the only player to finish above the 40-second mark.
Connor McDavid, who won that challenge and later the whole $1 million prize, finished at 25.755 seconds.
As boos appeared to get louder, Kucherov held up his left hand and waved to the crowd as he finished the event.
“You sit there for like three hours and then you get to go stick-handle,” Kucherov said, per the Associated Press. “That was kind of tough.”
He got one more chance in the shooting accuracy challenge, finishing seventh out of 10, ending his dismal night.
Kucherov will get one more chance to have a better weekend in Ontario in the All-Star Game — a game he was drafted first for earlier this week by Jack Hughes’ team — on Saturday.