Shane Wright dominates the NHL Draft talk these days. And rightfully so. Wright has been the projected top pick for the 2022 Draft since being granted exceptional status to play in the OHL as a 15-year-old. But there is another name hockey fans need to know and get excited for. Meet Connor Bedard, the next hockey phenom.
Meet Connor Bedard, the Next Phenom
Who Is Connor Bedard?
Connor Bedard is regarded as the top prospect for the 2023 NHL Draft. He became the first player ever to be granted exceptional status for the WHL before the 2020-2021 season. The WHL is traditionally regarded as one of the tougher junior leagues around, ear-marked for heavier physical play. That makes Bedard’s exceptional status more impressive.
The Covid-19 pandemic put all leagues in the CHL on hold to start the 2020-21 season, so Bedard went overseas to Sweden to get his reps in. Bedard split time between the U18 and U20 junior leagues in Sweden, scoring six points in five games total.
Once the WHL season eventually began in March 2021, Bedard returned to join the Regina Pats, who had selected him first overall in the 2020 WHL Bantam draft. Bedard proceeded to light the league on fire, scoring 28 points in 15 games as a 15-year-old playing against competition as old as 20.
Bedard was not done there. He was selected to represent Canada at the World Under-18 Championships in Frisco, Texas. Bedard tied with Shane Wright to lead team Canada in scoring with 14 points in 7 games. (It’s worth mentioning that the leading tournament scorer with 16 points in seven games was fellow 15-year-old phenom Matvei Michkov of Russia.)
When watching Bedard play, the first thing that jumps out is his shot. To say that it is lethal may be doing it an injustice. It is hard, it is accurate, and it can be released in a hurry. More than that, Bedard can get a deadly shot off in any type of space, whether it be in open ice or between opposing stick checks. Bedard is also one of the best at disguising his shot, and changing the angle of the release to fool goalies and adapt to the space he is given to shoot. When it’s said that he is the best, that does not just mean his age group. Connor Bedard is already a world-class shooter at any level. The scary part is that as he grows and gains strength, the shot will only get better.
Something scouts love to see is Bedard’s willingness to go to the middle of the ice to get his shot off. Plenty of junior snipers will stay to the perimeter and avoid contact. Bedard is fearless in finding the area of the ice he’s most likely to score from. Though he is a slight 5’9” now, he is only likely to get stronger.
Bedard is not just a sniper, though. He is gifted with elite vision and hockey sense, often thinking several steps ahead of the competition to get to scoring areas first and make highlight-reel passes to teammates. Further, Bedard takes advantage of the fact that opposing teams have to respect his shot. Bedard will often load a shot to freeze defenders and goaltenders, then feather a perfect pass to a teammate.
The hands and skating of Bedard are high-end as well. He is often able to employ both elements to routinely beat defenders in one-on-one situations. Though the top-end speed is not McDavid level, Bedard is more than capable to get where he needs to go on the ice and occasionally turning the corner on a defender. His edgework in particular stands out, as he can deceive defenders one way before cutting another.
Though the term “generational talent” gets used a little too freely these days, Connor Bedard certainly falls into this category. Once he gets to the NHL, he will be appointment viewing, worth the price of admission every night. Though he is not quite on the level of Connor McDavid, Bedard will come close. His dominance and skillset cannot be questioned.
For the current season, Bedard has had a slow start for his standards. He has 12 points in 16 games on a struggling Regina team. But the safe bet is Bedard will regain form and finish the rest of the season strong. The elite always do, and Connor Bedard is elite.
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