Each year that the NHL draft comes around, there seems to be a player many cite as the next big thing. A player who will be the next cornerstone of a franchise or usher in a new era of the sport as the number one overall pick. In most cases, this player doesn’t live up to the lofty expectations put on them. It’s rare that they end up being a Sidney Crosby or Connor McDavid.
Yet that doesn’t necessarily mean that they were a bust. For every Crosby, there are several Steven Stamkos or Rick Nash types of players that have, or are having great careers, but might not be described as generational talents.
Heading into the World Juniors, this was how I felt about Canadian prospect Connor Bedard: a player that was going to be good, but I didn’t feel like he’d be a generational talent.
The World Juniors is a U20 tournament intended to showcase the best young players from across the world. Until NHL players are back in the Olympics, it might be the closest thing we have to a “Best-on-best” tournament in hockey, even though the rosters consist of teenagers.
Watching Connor Bedard’s performance at the World Juniors, and subsequent reading of his current WHL season, I believe that Connor Bedard will be a generational talent similar to Sidney Crosby for these three reasons.
Connor Bedard is the Next NHL Superstar
Performance at the World Juniors
Team Canada has long been the standard bearer of the World Junior Championships. Of the 47 tournaments held since 1977, Canada has won the Gold Medal 20 times, seven ahead of the second-place country, Russia. In the last four years, Canada has had three Gold Medals and a Silver medal.
In short, there have been a lot of good hockey players lacing up the skates for Team Canada in this tournament. None have registered more points than Connor Bedard’s 23 points (9 goals and 14 assists) in the seven games played at the Tournament. In fact, the 23 points are the most by a single player since Peter Forsberg in 1993.
CONNOR BEDARD SETS A NEW CANADIAN RECORD FOR MOST GOALS AT THE WORLD JUNIORS! pic.twitter.com/CJwpYmJdvW
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) January 2, 2023
At 17 years old, Bedard was one of the youngest players in the tournament yet led all players in scoring and captained the Gold Medal-winning team.
Current WHL Season Statistics
Bedard’s current team is the Regina Pats in the Western Hockey League. The age group of the players in this league is similar to the age range in the U20 World Championships but mainly consists of North American players.
So far this year Bedard leads the WHL in points with 78 (36 goals, 42 assists) while only playing in 31 games due to his participation in the World Junior Championship. The next closest player has 62 points in 36 games played, giving Bedard a staggering 16-point lead while playing five fewer games.
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Feedback from Scouts
The scouting reports on Bedard are similar to a report card of a high school valedictorian. There appears to be no weakness in his game, especially on the offensive side of the ice. According to Elite Prospects, Bedard is ranked the number one prospect by every major outlet. About as unanimous of a first-overall pick as you can be at this point in the draft process.
— Ben Jordan (@BJordanNHL) December 27, 2022
Offensively, scouts rave about all of the tools he has and how developed they are at this point in his career. He has a strong, accurate shot with a quick release but can also create for himself and his teammates. On the forecheck, there is some development to be desired but much of that is due to his age and size. At 5’10”, 185 lbs he still has some filling out to do by the time he gets to the NHL level.
There has been some criticism about his ability on the defensive side of the ice. There are times when he can be lazy on his back-check and rush to get the puck back out in transition instead of making the smart defensive play. Much of this development will come in time, especially if he can find himself in the right system in the NHL.