There may be a race to the bottom next season in the NHL after Connor Bedard introduced himself to the world stage on Tuesday night at the 2022 World Junior Hockey Championship. The 16-year-old is eligible for the 2023 NHL Draft, and he showed everyone why he will go first overall.
The teenager from North Vancouver B.C. put on a show, becoming the first 16-year-old to score a hat trick since Wayne Gretzky did it in 1977. He added one more to beat the record and join only five other Canadian players to record four goals in a single game at this tournament.
Bedard is Just Getting Started
Bedard broke the 44-year-old record in a building where a statue of Wayne Gretzky stands, and the Great One’s number 99 hangs in the rafters, “it’s cool to have your name mentioned with that guy. Whenever you get that honour, it’s pretty crazy and surreal. Bedard addressed the media for the first time since the tournament began. The fresh-faced kid didn’t appear to have even broken a sweat. His hair was dry, his answers were calm, and it took more than a few questions to get him to react to the history that he just made and whose record he just beat. “It’s one game; obviously, I don’t think I will be getting 2800 points in the NHL.”
Coach Dave Cameron started Bedard as his thirteenth forward in the pre-tournament game on Dec. 23 but saw enough to move him up after just one period in game one. Now Bedard is Canada’s leading scorer, “is that you’re way of saying that it’s good coaching,” joked Cameron after the game. “Full marks to Connor, it’s like the team – it is a work in progress. We asked the guys to improve. Connor doesn’t need my help when the puck is on his stick, and he is in the offensive zone. He has an exceptional status for a reason.”
COVID Risk on Everyone’s Mind
After such a strong performance, it seems the only thing that can slow down Team Canada in the next few days isn’t a team but a virus. Two positive tests resulted in the United States forfeiting a game earlier in the day. “I think our team has been really diligent. We are in a tight bubble,” said Cameron, who is hopefully the US will be back up and running. “All the work that is done to try to pull this tournament off under these trying conditions, you don’t want to see any team forfeit. Hopefully, it was just a one-off, and the tournament continues.”
Canada Too Dominant
Canada outshot Austria, 64-22. 16 of Canada’s 20 skaters had points. Other than Bedard’s four-goal performance, three players had three point nights (Mason McTavish, Cole Perfetti, Elliot Desnoyers). We can go through more stats but they all are lopsided in Canada’s favour. Cameron said it best, “I’m not sure that game does either team any good in terms of getting better, it’s the reality of the tournament.”
However, Cameron admits there was some sloppy play by his team, “when you have the puck so much there is going to be some lazy tendencies slip into your team’s game, that’s human nature so the game went pretty much like I thought it would.” However, the coach added that his leadership group was already focusing on the next game against a stronger team. Canada faces Germany on Wednesday, Dec. 29 and finishes the round-robin against Finland on Friday, Dec. 31.
In other notes, Nothing against forward Vinzenz Rohrer, but the player of the game for Austria should have been awarded to Leon Sommer. The goalie faced 64 shots from this highly skilled Canada team. Sure, he allowed 11 goals, but he was the busiest player on the ice, and without the effort, Bedard and Canada would’ve easily had a few more goals.
Edmonton is not showing up to the tournament. Before it began, Alberta cut capacity to 50 percent and closed most concessions. But no one is getting turned away, with a capacity of more than 9,000, just 3,862 attended the Austria game, and less than 4,900 were at the Boxing Day game against Czechia.
All the 2022 World Junior Championship Team Information:
Austria – Team Preview – Roster
Canada – Team Preview – Roster
Czech Republic – Team Preview – Roster
Finland – Team Preview – Roster
Germany – Team Preview – Roster
Russia – Team Preview – Roster
Slovakia – Team Preview – Roster
Sweden – Team Preview – Roster
United States – Team Preview – Roster
All Your THW 2022 World Junior Championship Coverage
Kevin Armstrong is an award-winning journalist with more than two decades of experience. He’s been rink side for World Juniors, Memorial Cups, Calder Cups and Stanley Cups. Like many Canadian kids, his earliest memories include hockey. Kevin has spent countless hours in arenas throughout the country watching all levels of the game.