If you haven’t heard of Connor Bedard, grab a seat and enjoy the ride for one of the most highly anticipated prospects for the 2023 NHL Draft. Ever since he was playing for the West Van Prep team, the Regina Pats captain has continued to live up to the hype and surpass expectations with his play.
It has been three years since he was granted exceptional status and drafted into the Western Hockey League. Since then, Bedard has been able to continue to wow us with his elite level play and skillset.
It’s really hard to find a player that is able to constantly elevate his level of play with the whole hockey world watching him. There hasn’t been this much excitement for a prospect since Connor McDavid back in 2015. Like McDavid, Bedard is a generational talent, excelling in all aspects of the game. Now in his third WHL season, Bedard continues to be two-steps ahead of everyone else with his play as everything he does seems like a cakewalk whenever he’s on the ice.
Every single year, Bedard continued to be in the spotlight of the WHL and now he’s continuing to grab all headlines as he’s constantly showcasing his talents in his draft year. He was recently given an A rating by NHL Central Scouting in their preliminary list of players to watch, which is not surprising at all. While it’s a draft filled with high-end talent, no one is going to dethrone Bedard as he continues to be steps ahead of everyone else.
Since his rookie season, Bedard has been on the scoresheet consistently as he’s a highly creative offensive dynamo when he’s on the ice. Over his WHL career, Bedard has 159 points in 93 games– a 1.71 career point per game average. It’s ridiculous on the surface, but the way he does most of his damage at even strength is striking as he’s always a threat in every situation.
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While the numbers appear to be down from his rookie season compared to his sophomore season, Bedard was on a Pats team that didn’t do so well in the standings, finishing ninth overall in the Eastern Conference. He had an impressive 1.87 point per game average (127 points over a 68-game season) in his rookie season despite the minimal games played due to the pandemic.
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There’s more of a sample size last season compared to the 15 games in 2020-21, where 27 of his 28 points that season were primary. Yet, Bedard continued to excel with his overall offensive production. His even strength goals for percentage went down due to the fact that the Pats have been a below average team defensively, as they have allowed 277 goals last season. But he makes up for it by still being the one to carry the offense as a primary point producer. No matter what, Bedard continued to dazzle and outshine, leading the way for the team as an offensive force, breaking the 100-point mark.
This also included a stint with Team Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championship before it was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, where he recorded a four-goal game in an 11-2 win against Latvia. Don’t worry, he dominated when the tournament started up as he helped Canada to a gold medal.
Bedard’s elite level play and production has carried over in the 2022-23 season as he is now the league leaders in points with 31 and second in goals with 13. After not registering a point in his first game, he has been on another torrid pace with points in 15 straight games, a 1.94 point per game average and a 132-point pace for this season.
In comparison to other exceptional players in their draft year, Bedard is definitely en route to being the most productive. He’s on pace to not only surpass John Tavares’ draft year in 2008-09 of 104 points with the Oshawa Generals and London Knights, but he’s to break McDavid’s draft year production in 2014-15 of 120 points.
To make things even more intriguing, he’s already registered close to 100 shots on goal, averaging just over six shots per game with three games in with 10+.
Considering the fact that Bedard remains on an average team, he continues to put up elite-level numbers at a ridiculous pace. There’s a reason why he’s the top name in the 2023 draft as he continues to wow hockey fans and scouts constantly.
Highlight Reel Plays
Whenever he has the puck you’re expecting him to take charge and make plays at an extremely high pace and level of degree. No matter what he does, he continues to make the opposition look foolish. Whether it’s with his speed, his soft hands in tight spaces or unleashing his NHL-like shot, if you go up against him, you’re going to be on the wrong end of the highlight reel. Speaking of which, let’s take a look at some plays that Beard has made so far this season.
This clip shows Bedard’s elite level wrist shot and accuracy. It seems that even if there’s a low chance of the puck getting on net, Bedard seems to think otherwise as he’s able to find a way with his release, power and timing. Bedard utilizes the opponent as a screen perfectly and with his shot, he’s able to get it through the opponent’s legs and manages to find an opening on the short side. His head was up all the way through and he leaned in and followed through with his shot.
To find the back of the net with very little to work with is very impressive for Bedard. The way he curled the puck is reminiscent to that of Auston Matthews’ shot as he has the same form and mechanics in his shot.
This clip shows his elite level skillset, quick hands and ability to make a move at a quick pace in tight. His long reach not only allowed him to pull off a ridiculous toe-drag around the defender, he manages to quickly maintain possession. As he approaches the goalie in tight, he was able to execute an insane between the leg shot perfectly without any hesitation.
Needless to say, that was a highlight reel goal from Bedard who is having a growing list of plays that are jaw dropping early on in his career. This won’t be the last time we see goals like this. Next on his list, the Michigan?
This goal at the World Junior Championship against Slovakia in August further exemplifies his elite level vision and hockey sense.
Bedard quickly feathers a pass between two Slovak players to Mason McTavish. As the players are drawn to McTavish and he quickly finds the cross seam, Bedard is swiftly able to open himself up and execute the give-and-go with such ease. In the end he’s able to easily find the back of the net.
To identify his teammates and quickly become a shooting option is why Bedard’s vision and awareness is going to make him have a successful NHL career in being a dominant offensive producer.
Exceptional Draft Year
No matter how you look at it, Bedard is already living up to the exceptional status label with his consistent production and dynamic skillset in his draft year. As he continues to play at a ridiculous high and steady pace, he continues to leave his mark and show why he’s the top ranked prospect in the 2023 draft class.
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What we’ve seen from Bedard over one month into the junior hockey season is a precursor to what we will see from him in the near future. He’s been a dominant factor at every level he’s played at. The NHL is next on his list.
Peter is in his third year with The Hockey Writers, covering the Toronto Maple Leafs and heading the Draft and Prospects section. He has previously interned at The Hockey News and worked on Toronto Marlies broadcasts for Rogers TV. He currently is the co-host of the podcast Sticks in the 6ix and a frequent guest on Maple Leafs Lounge. Aside from hockey, he also enjoys drumming, animation and impressions/ voices.