James
Tubb
May 4, 2023

Comparing Connor Bedard’s draft year to Connor McDavid’s 2015 run

Connor McDavid‘s Ontario Hockey League season leading into the 2015 NHL Draft was described by the staff at FCHockey in one word — exceptional.

Eight years later and there’s another player’s season to be described the exact same way.

The performance Connor Bedard put on with the Regina Pats in the Western Hockey League is one that not only sets him up for the projected first overall pick in the 2023 NHL Draft, but also closely resembles McDavid’s 2015 campaign. Both received exceptional status from the Canadian Hockey League, with Bedard the first to receive the honors in the WHL.

“Opponents have been game planning around him all year and no one has come close to slowing him down let alone stopping him,” FCHockey scout Donesh Mazloum said. “I think that there is no question that this has been the most impressive junior season since McDavid.”

By the numbers

In McDavid’s final OHL season, he led the Erie Otters with 44 goals and 120 points in 47 games. He missed time due to playing at the World Juniors (three goals, 11 points in seven games for gold) and with a hand injury sustained during a fight. McDavid finished the season third in OHL scoring behind then London Knights forward Mitchell Marner (44 goals, 126 points in 63 games) and Erie teammate Dylan Strome, who led the league with 45 goals and 129 points in 68 games. McDavid was named the OHL’s most outstanding player as a result.

Bedard wrapped up his junior hockey career with a season tracked across North America not only because of his projected draft stock but because of the silliness of his numbers. The North Vancouver, British Columbia product had 71 goals and 143 points in 57 games for the Pats, only missing time in the WHL lineup to play for Canada at the World Juniors (nine goals, 23 points in seven games for gold). Bedard was held off the scoresheet in the first game of the season before putting up a 35-game point streak that was finally snapped on February 3 after having amassed 44 goals and 46 assists over the  tear. He ended the regular season with only five games where he didn’t register a point. Bedard, unsurprisingly, has been nominated for WHL player of the year.

By their play and growth

When McDavid was selected No. 1 by the Edmonton Oilers in 2015, they immediately gained a franchise center who provided instant offense and excitement to a struggling team. FCHockey’s draft reports spoke about McDavid’s offensive abilities in junior and how he can exploit other players for success.

“McDavid is lethal in transition and makes opponents step back because of his ability to burn them quickly. He sees opportunities and pounces on them by using his speed to get to open ice and create a passing lane for his teammates,” his report in FCHockey’s 2015 NHL Draft Guide read. “He has an electric first step and uses his speed and strength to leave opponents in the dust. McDavid elevates his play over the course of the game, upping his effect on the game at crucial times. He uses his edges to explode in every direction and can change speed (up and down) in no time at all, fooling opponents in the process.

“Finally, the fact that he doesn’t use all of his talent in the offensive zone and saves something for the defensive zone as well is impressive. He uses his speed to get back and break up plays by stripping players of the puck. His versatility is something that really stands out, as he is the first one out to kill a penalty and quarterback the power play.”

The draft guide finished with saying McDavid would “need to improve the velocity and release on his shot to fully become that dangerous player we all think he can be at the next level.”

When watching Connor Bedard this season, FCHockey scout Joel Henderson sees two things that make 2023’s projected first overall pick special — his ability to make any situation a scoring chance and his adaptability.

“The adaptability, it creates an umbrella and it’s everything to do with his skating, his IQ, how he reads situations how he thinks games and how he continues to attack,” Henderson said.  “You never know what you’re going to get from him. He can change his game on a dime and now you have to change to adapt to him.”

Henderson sees Bedard’s regular season performance not only a strong indication of what the young forward can be for whichever lucky NHL team wins the NHL Draft Lottery on May 8, but also a sign that there is nothing more for him to learn in the junior levels.

“His season is an accurate portrayal of how good he is,” Henderson said. “You look at the way he could just always got his points. Throughout the year, he had very few games where he didn’t get any points.

“With good players, whether it’s a scout or even just a casual hockey fan you want to find the accuracy of the projection. And so with him like you want to go, how good is he? Is he better than this person? Because when you’re in a tier like he is, there isn’t a player to like to compare him too. It’s, you take a little bit of this, you take a little bit of Jack Hughes, you take a little bit of McDavid, you take a little bit of Auston Matthews and you kind of splice it all together and  here is the version of what he is.

“At the end of the day, I look at it and think, was he actually this good and the answer is yes.”


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