August 10, 2022

Bedard set to be most scrutinized prospect at World Juniors

The stage is set for Connor Bedard. 

And there will certainly be a spotlight on the top 2023 NHL Draft eligible when he hits the ice at the World Junior Championship. 

Rightfully so, too. 

He turned heads and dropped jaws in a two-game teaser in the tournament back in December. 

Now, eight months of anticipation later, he’ll be asked to raise eyebrows even more.

“Bedard has always found ways to be a highly impactful player, even when playing up against older competition, so I expect that to be the case again for Canada at this tournament,” FCHockey scout Derek Neumeier said. 

“And as anyone who has ever paid attention to Bedard can attest, he doesn’t need much time and space to do maximum damage with those touches. He’ll score a lot of points, and I won’t be surprised if he ultimately stands out as the best player there.”

Bedard first cracked Canada’s roster back in December to become the seventh player to be selected to play for the country at the World Juniors as a 16-year-old, joining Gretzky (1978), Lindros (1989), Jason Spezza (2000), Jay Bouwmeester (2000), Crosby (2004) and McDavid (2014).

He then shredded opponents in his brief two-game twirl before the tournament was shut down in December because of COVID-19 concerns, including becoming the youngest player ever to net a hat-trick at the World Juniors for Canada. 

The then 16-year-old eclipsed Gretzky’s mark set at the 1978 tournament.

No big deal. 

But it raises the bar — and expectations — on what the now-17-year-old can do.

“Bedard has shown time and time again that he can score huge goals in small windows,” FCHockey scout Joel Henderson said. “I expect nothing less than much of the same. He’s a player who can change the tides of a tournament and if he’s not checked and shadowed at all times, he’s probably the most dangerous player on the ice.”

Bedard entered the tournament having scored 24 points (14 goals, 10 assists) in 24 games for the Regina Pats in the Western Hockey League. 

His World Juniors boost saw him net 76 points (37 goals, 39 assists) in the following 38 games for Regina.

That didn’t include his seven points (six goals, one assist) for Canada at the 2022 IIHF World Under-18 Championship where he captained Canada to gold en route to tournament All-Star Team appearance. 

It all helped solidify Bedard’s claim as the consensus No. 1 pick for a 2023 draft that contains plenty of high-end talent. 

And under the microscope at the rebooted summer edition of the World Juniors. 

“Bedard’s job will be to rack up points and be a threat offensively,” Neumeier said. “If he comes out of the tournament with a point-per-game scoring rate, or some key offensive production in the biggest games, then he will have done his job and been successful. 

“Though, to him and his intensely competitive nature, anything less than a gold medal will be seen as a failure.”

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