CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game: Preparing For The Connor Bedard Show
LANGLEY, BC – The NHL scouting world descended on Langley, just outside of Vancouver, for one of the best prospect showcases of the season. The CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game will feature 40 top prospects eligible for the 2023 NHL Draft, including North Vancouver native and No. 1 prospect Connor Bedard.
With all due respect to the Vancouver Giants, who have a great facility and a history of success as a WHL franchise, the reason the game is here is because of the kid from North Vancouver. Playing near his hometown, Bedard is the main event. He’s the guy everyone wants to see and he’s the one that all the other players have to answer questions about. The Regina Pats captain seems to thrive in the spotlight and relishes the opportunity to play close to home.
“It’s great. Lots of family and friends will be there,” Bedard said. “I was always looking forward to it once everything was announced, so we’re very excited to get started.”
WATCH 🎥: @WHLPats captain Connor Bedard speaks to the media ahead of the 2023 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game @KubotaCanadaLtd. #CHLKTP | #NHLDraft pic.twitter.com/DXLhuqYiuv
— The WHL (@TheWHL) January 25, 2023
Even though it seems like we know everything there is to know about Bedard, it’s amazing to watch him continually rise in every scene he plays. His historic performance at the last Junior World Championship sent the hype surrounding the already robust 17-year-old phenom into another stratosphere. We haven’t seen attention on a draft like this since Connor McDavid entered the NHL.
That’s what will make this CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game special. Every year is a terrific showcase of many of the top draft prospects, but there are very few occasions when a star as big as Bedard is in the lineup. Few 17-year-old hockey players have seen the level of care, expectation and hope that has surrounded Bedard for over a year now.
The accolades he racked up and the collection of gear he acquired before his 18th birthday would be the envy of most seasoned pros.
Bedard already has three IIHF gold medals, including one at the World Under-18 Championship and two at the World Juniors. He tied Connor McDavid for the U18 World Championship with the highest score by a player 15 or younger. He made Canada’s World Juniors team at age 16 and became the youngest player to score four goals in a game before the tournament was postponed to the summer. At the summer tournament, he played a key role with seven points in seven games as Canada won gold.
2023 Junior Worlds: Connor Bedard named MVP after record tournament
Then, at the last Junior Worlds, he scored 23 points in seven games. He smashed the previous Canadian record for single-tournament points, ranked fourth all-time in single-tournament points, set Canada’s career goals and points record, and was named Most Valuable Player of the tournament as Canada won gold again.
Connor Bedard has scored 38 goals in his last 32 games.
(🎥: @TheWHL) pic.twitter.com/As3cTYV0bb
— BarDown (@BarDown) January 22, 2023
While he couldn’t top all of that, he is currently in the midst of one of the most productive seasons the WHL has had in 30 years. Bedard is the CHL’s leading scorer with an impressive 81 points and 39 goals in just 33 games. He went from the presumed No. 1 pick to the only pick at No. 1.
Now you see all the fans of the NHL teams at the bottom of the standings cringe at every win and silently (or not-so-silently) pump their fists when their favorite team loses. Each loss is one step closer to a slightly better chance of winning the draft lottery and having the best possible chance of landing one of the top scorers we’ve ever seen at junior level.
Even NHL legends join “The Tank”.
I think Connor Bedard would fit perfectly in this @AnaheimDucks locker room 😊💪 Welcome to Southern California! pic.twitter.com/cI6FZsArAG
— Teemu Selanne (@TeemuSel8nne) January 25, 2023
Before resuming his season, however, Bédard has a chance to assert himself among his peers. This game will do absolutely nothing for his draft stock, but it won’t change anything for Bedard. He may not say it outwardly, but his play often speaks anyway – he wants to put on a show. It is more likely than not that he will too.
The particularly mature 17-year-old Bedard always seems to find a way to show off when the spotlight is at its brightest. As far as he can tell, though, there’s no switch to flip.
“I prepare the same way every game,” Bedard said. “Obviously there will be some games more important than others, but for my part, I treat each of them the same and I prepare the same and I think that helps me mentally.
This opportunity will be no different.
Connor Bedard does Connor Bedard [email protected] | #NHLDraft | #CB98 pic.twitter.com/5cX2USdKne
— The WHL (@TheWHL) January 21, 2023
Bedard is expected to play on the same line with Zach Benson, who is currently a distant second in the WHL scoring race with 65 points and has seen his own draft stock rise over the season. Usually these two fight on opposite sides of the ice, which makes Bedard a little more relieved that they can be on the same side for once.
“[Benson is] he’s so good at the forecheck, he takes the pucks and he’s got that talent,” Bedard said of his linemate and longtime friend. “He always seems to get a lot of points against us. [in Regina]. I played with him growing up in spring hockey, so I can’t wait to get him back. »
Interestingly enough, it almost seems like the people who made this game’s list also wanted to challenge the #1 prospect.
Beyond Bedard and Benson, there are no other players in the top 20 of NHL Central Scouting’s most recent Red Team roster rankings. Team White, however, has eight of the top 20 North American skaters by Central Scouting. Bedard’s team has at least the best goaltender Carson Bjarnason, also from the WHL.
Beyond Bedard: Benson and Barlow among players to watch at top prospects game
On the other side of the rink will be top prospects such as WHL Brayden Yager, OHL star Colby Barlow and QMJHL torchbearer Ethan Gauthier, as well as top defensemen Oliver Bonk and Lukas Dragicevic range.
Bucket setting #CHLKTP pic.twitter.com/R5XxdyD1ck
— Canadian Hockey League (@CHLHockey) January 24, 2023
They certainly didn’t want to make it easy for the prodigy, that’s for sure.
It probably wouldn’t have mattered who they put on the other side, though. At the junior level, there just isn’t another player in this game or this draft season who has the ability to pick up the slack like Bedard does. We’ve seen him at every stage of his career and every time you think you’ve seen his best he finds another gear.
The reason everyone continues to get more and more excited about Bedard is because there hasn’t yet been a single instance in his career where he hasn’t met or exceeded expectations. At the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, he has yet another national stage to do it.