Today’s Prospects News & Rumors has a west coast flair to it. We check in on a busy night in Western Hockey League (WHL) where a very special and young talent made a great first impression and the San Jose Sharks most recent first-round pick found the back of the net. Also, one of the top prospects in the Los Angeles Kings organization had a big night in the American Hockey League (AHL).
Connor Bedard Dazzles in WHL Debut
Every once in a while, a young player comes around and stands out among all his peers. Usually, generational talents are spotted at a very young age, like Wayne Gretzky, Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid. The next such player could be Bedard, the first player ever to be granted exceptional status by the WHL.
Bedard is just the seventh player to be granted exceptional status and be allowed to play in the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) at 15. The other six on this list are John Tavares, Aaron Ekblad, McDavid, Sean Day, Joe Veleno and Shane Wright.
“It is definitely cool to be mentioned with McDavid,” Bedard recently told Sam Cosentino of Sportsnet. “Obviously, he is one of the best players in the world. Seeing how he just dominates the best league in the world, it’s so crazy to hear my name mentioned in the same sentence as his.”
The 15-year-old phenom made his WHL debut on Friday night with Regina Pats and he did not disappoint. With his team down 3-0, Bedard scored his first WHL goal to get the Pats on the board.
Just 47 seconds later, he struck again to cut the Prince Albert Raiders’ lead down to 3-2.
Unfortunately for Regina, Prince Albert pulled away for 6-3 victory to spoil Bedard’s big debut.
“It was really special. It’s been a long year, I think, for everyone, just waiting to get started and it was definitely good to get that one going and out of the way. It’s a special feeling getting on that ice and finally being able to play for Regina,” Bedard said of his WHL debut. “You could tell with my emotion I was pretty pumped, but it’s definitely good to get that first one out of the way because then you can just play. Like I said, I was super excited to get those. I thought our whole team tonight played a good game.”
It is going to be a ton of fun to watch Bedard and what he can do from here.
Ozzy Wiesblatt Shines in WHL Return
While Bedard was stealing all the headlines on Friday night, Prince Albert went on with their business in their 6-3 season-opening win over Regina. Wiesblatt was one of the heroes for the Raiders with a goal and two assists.
The Sharks’ 2020 first-round pick (31st overall) scored the first goal of the game, just under four minutes into the contest.
Wiesblatt added a pair of primary assists on goals by Matthew Culling and Logan Danis later on in the evening. The 19-year-old right wing has had an advantage over most players in the WHL as he spent some time with the San Jose Barracuda in the AHL. He scored a goal in his three professional games before returning to Prince Albert. He is looking to build off a huge draft year with the Raiders that saw him scored 25 goals and 70 points in 64 games last season.
Arthur Kaliyev Nets a Pair
Kaliyev has had a very eventful 2020-21 season, to say the least. He scored three goals and eight points to help lead the United States to a gold medal at the World Junior Championship. He also got to make his NHL debut with the Kings and scored a goal in his only game with them. He has then spent the rest of the season with the Ontario Regin in the AHL as he and the Hamilton Bulldogs wait and see if the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) will ever get started this season.
He was up to his old tricks in Friday night’s 5-3 win over the Tucson Roadrunners. Kaliyev scored both the opening goal in the first period then the eventual game-winning goal later on in the final frame.
This was the first multi-goal game in Kaliyev’s professional career. It also snapped his seven-game goal drought as he hadn’t found the back of the net since Feb. 17. The 19-year-old left wing now has three goals and eight points in 14 games with the Reign this season.
Greg Boysen has been writing about the Chicago Blackhawks since 2010 and has been a site manager for both FanSided and SB Nation. He has been published in The Hockey News and was fully credentialed for the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. Among his various roles with The Hockey Writers are covering the Blackhawks, the AHL, writing the daily “Today in Hockey History” column, serving as a copy editor, and appearing and hosting multiple YouTube shows, including Blackhawks Banter. He is credentialed with the Chicago Wolves, Rockford IceHogs, and Milwaukee Admirals, while also being a regional scout for the NAHL. And, just because his plate isn’t full enough, Greg hosts trivia in the Chicago area two nights a week. For interview requests or to provide topic suggestions, follow Greg on Twitter and reach out.