Every summer, when the NHL Draft rolls around, the hockey world tends to get a little loose with their evaluations of great young players.
It seems like the top player in every other draft gets labeled as a “generational” talent. Apparently, the term no longer means he’ll be the finest player of his generation. Instead, it’s merely a new way to say, “This kid is going to be an excellent NHL player.”
When the term gets applied to Connor Bedard, it’s still hyperbole, but it doesn’t feel that far off.
Bedard is currently helping Team Canada try and hunt down a second World Junior Hockey gold medal in the past 5 months. Canada got a big time scare in Monday’s quarterfinals, going to overtime against the upstart Slovaks, before Bedard conjured up some solo magic in the 3 on 3 sudden-death.
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) January 3, 2023
The goal gave Canada a 4-3 win and vaulted us into the semifinals against the Americans on Wednesday.
“I saw the one guy kind of made a move and then I saw a little lane to the net so I tried to make another move,” Bedard said. “I think it was kind of instinct and luckily it went in.”
Bedard finished with 2 goals and an assist on the night, and has now broken several World Junior Hockey records for Canadians: most career goals (16) and points (34), along with most points (21) and assists (13) in single tournament.
To put things in perspective, when Connor McDavid was the age Bedard is now and in his draft year, McDavid had 11 points in 7 games at the 2015 World Juniors. Bedard has 21 in 5 games… and counting.
“Yeah. It’s really impressive,” McDavid said. “It’s tough to explain what he’s doing. It’s been fun to watch from the outside and I’m sure he’s having a great time. He’s coming into a big semifinal game and I’m sure he’ll be raring to go.”
Bedard is so poised and skilled, it really is easy to forget how young he is. This is a tournament that’s usually dominated by 19 year olds. Bedard doesn’t even turn 18 until July so he’s still deemed too young, by rule, to play without a full face shield like most of his teammates.
Despite his three week absence from the Regina Pats to play in this tournament, Bedard still holds a five point lead on the entire Western Hockey League, with 64 points in 28 games.
With numbers like that, it’s hard not to wonder how badly he might terrorize opposing goalies in the next two World Junior tournaments. But he won’t get the chance, and not because he’s ineligible. Age-wise, he’s good to go. But when Connor Bedard makes his NHL debut this fall, he might be his team’s best player right out of the gate, and they won’t be letting him go anywhere.
By Steve Warne