‘He’s incredible’: Bedard once again turning heads at Canada’s world junior camp
MONCTON, N.B. — Connor Bedard’s highlight reel has been hard to miss.
Already the presumptive first overall selection at the 2023 NHL draft, the 17-year-old phenom with a bullet shot and an ability to make the puck look like it’s on a string – often leaving defenders chasing shadows and goaltenders looking foolish – has taken his game to new heights this season.
Video of his jaw-dropping skill splashes across social media on what feels like a near-daily basis. And there’s almost certainly going to be more viral clips when Bedard takes centre stage with Canada at the 2023 world junior hockey championship later this month.
His exploits have also already entered the NHL conversation.
“We have guys in the Kings dressing room talking about him like, ‘You get to play with Bedard kid,'” said Canadian defenceman Brandt Clarke, who was loaned to the men’s under-20 national team by Los Angeles for the tournament.
“I’m not going to name anybody.”
So, was the teammate in question Kings defenceman and noted hockey geek Drew Doughty?
“(He) did say that, actually,” Clarke, 19, added with a laugh. “(Bedard’s) already getting that kind of recognition.”
With good reason.
Coming off a 51-goal, 100-point performance at age 16 for the Western Hockey League’s Regina Pats in 2021-22, the silky smooth centre from North Vancouver, B.C., has gone next-level this season.
Bedard was held off the scoresheet in Regina’s opener, but has scored 27 times and added 37 assists since as part of an outrageous 27-game point streak.
Before joining up with Canada, which will be looking for its 20th gold medal when the world juniors open Dec. 26 in Halifax and Moncton, Bedard had five points in an 8-2 victory last weekend.
Canadian world junior hopeful and Seattle Thunderbirds goaltender Thomas Milic was asked about Bedard’s shot.
Turns out he has first-hand experience from the WHL this season.
“It’s pretty, pretty, pretty good,” the 19-year-old said with a smile. “There’s a picture online where the shot was taken and I’m still looking for it and it goes right by me.
“Hopefully that one doesn’t circulate too much.”
During one recent on-ice session at Canada’s world junior selection camp in Moncton, a simple rush drill saw Bedard effortlessly collect a wayward pass by drawing the puck between his legs up to his stick without breaking stride – one of countless subtle moments that feel ordinary, but certainly aren’t.
Shane Wright, the No. 4 pick by the Seattle Kraken at the 2022 draft, said Bedard has teammates in awe.
“Such a good player, but you’d never know,” said the 18-year-old centre, who was also loaned to Canada for the tournament. “Such a down-to-earth guy and such a fun guy to be around.
“He cares about taking care of himself properly and cares about his game. We see the talent on ice, we see the moves he makes and all the clips, but there’s so much that he does off camera – behind the scenes – that allows him to be that good and be that successful. He’s incredible.”
One of 10 returning players from Canada’s gold-medal winning roster that won the reimagined August world juniors pushed back eight months following a series of COVID-19 outbreaks that shelved last year’s event, Bedard is a lock after working hard to earn a spot 12 months ago.
But he taking nothing for granted.
“Always want to come in with that tryout mentality,” said Bedard, the first player granted exceptional status to play in the WHL a year early at age 15. “Still trying to prove myself and show everyone here what I can do.”
What he’s done over the last few years – Bedard even travelled to Sweden during the pandemic to train and find games when the WHL shuttered operations – is demonstrate a drive and determination that mirrors his talents.
“A player that wowed us last Christmas, a player that wowed us in the summer,” said James Boyd, a member of Canada’s management group. “He’s got the game-changing ability. What’s exciting is that he’s a better player now.”
Director of player personnel Alan Millar said the next step is honing his play without the puck.
“When you get into those key games, matchups are important,” Millar said. “The offence and a skill, we all know. But I think you’ll see a young man whose game has matured and is that much more complete.”
While that’s been a point of emphasis, Bedard is doing his best to keep draft talk at arms length.
“You have such a big focus on winning,” he said. “That’s outside noise. I’m so focused on the room with the Pats and here with the Team Canada.
“It’s pretty easy to block that stuff out.”
Adam Fantilli, a freshman forward at the University of Michigan expected to be in the conversation for the No. 2 spot at the draft, and Bedard are friends off the ice.
The pair watched Regina’s game Friday when Fantilli couldn’t get Michigan’s matchup against Michigan State on his laptop.
“Great guy,” Fantilli said.
“It’s kind of funny when people put us against each other,” Bedard added. “We joked about it a bit, but we’re both cheering for each other and now we’re on the same team.”
Hockey’s next big talent – Bedard has been compared to Connor McDavid in terms of what he might do to alter an NHL’s franchise future – is just getting started.
And already a big talking point across the sport.
“He’s as advertised,” Clarke said. “He’s so smart with the puck, his released is unmatched.
“I’m really looking forward to the rest of his career.”
The next step is trying to secure another gold on home soil.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 10, 2022.
Follow @JClipperton_CP on Twitter.
Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press
Nevada Legislators weigh plan to put MLB stadium on Las Vegas Strip
Blais scores twice, Canada beats Germany 5-2 to win gold at men’s hockey worlds
TAMPERE, Finland — Sammy Blais scored twice as Canada beat Germany 5-2 to capture gold at the men’s world hockey championship today.
Lawson Crouse, captain Tyler Toffoli and Scott Laughton also scored, and Peyton Krebs pitched in two assists for Canada.
“It feels really good,” Blais said. “We’ve been in Europe for a month and we’ve all waited for that moment to play for the gold-medal game. And we’re lucky enough to have won it.”
JJ Peterka and Daniel Fischbuch scored for Germany, which was in the gold-medal game for the first time since 1992 when the playoff format was introduced at the world championship. Moritz Seider added two assists.
Goaltender Samuel Montembeault made 21 saves for Canada, while German netminder Mathias Niederberger turned away 23 shots.
Canada won gold for the second time in three years after losing to Finland in overtime in last year’s world championship gold-medal game. It’s Canada’s 28th title at the event, the most of any country. Canada also has 16 silver and eight bronze medals from the tourney since 1931.
“I could not be more proud of this group. We battled through a lot of adversity and doubt to get to this point, and this win is so special,” Toffoli said. “We have such a close-knit team that came together quickly, and we always believed in each other.
“Everyone bought in and we played a great game today, and I am incredibly happy to be going back to Canada with a gold medal.”
Peterka opened the scoring for Germany at 7:44 of the first period with a wrist shot from the top of the left circle off a breakout that beat Montembeault.
Blais responded three minutes later, scoring in his third consecutive game after finishing off a pass from centre Peyton Krebs on a two-on-one to tie the game at 1-1.
Fischbuch gave Germany the lead again on a one-timer from the slot that trickled into the net 13:47 into the second period.
Canada replied with Crouse deflecting a pass from Krebs on the power play with 2:32 remaining in the second frame.
Blais then buried his second of the game 4:51 into the third period with a backhand off a rebound to put Canada ahead.
Toffoli added an insurance marker with eight minutes left, scoring with a wrist shot on a two-on-one to make it 4-2 in favour of Canada.
Laughton scored into an empty net with two minutes left to put the game out of reach.
“The commitment of everyone on our team was unbelievable. We knew we had to come here and play for each other and commit to a team game. We came here to represent Canada and make our country proud, and I am so blessed to be a part of this group,” said head coach André Tourigny.
“Our players wanted to win so bad. They wanted to bring a gold medal back to Canada, and when you have that mindset you can accomplish great things, and we did that tonight.”
Following the gold-medal game, MacKenzie Weegar was named best defenceman of the tournament and was selected to the media all-star team. Crouse, Montembeault and Weegar were also named Team Canada’s three best players of the tournament following the semifinals.
LATVIA 4 UNITED STATES 3 (OT)
Defenceman Kristian Rubins scored his second goal 1:22 into overtime to lead Latvia to victory over the United States and earn a bronze medal earlier Sunday.
It’s the first top-three finish for Latvia at the tournament. Its previous best was a seventh place it managed three times.
The U.S. lost in the bronze-medal game for the second straight year. The U.S. team was cruising through the tournament with eight straight wins until it was defeated by Germany in the semifinal, 4-3 in overtime.
Rubins rallied Latvia with his first with 5:39 to go in the final period to tie the game at -33 to force overtime.
Roberts Bukarts and Janis Jaks also scored for Latvia.
Rocco Grimaldi scored twice for the U.S. in the opening period to negate Latvia’s 1-0 and 2-1 leads.
Matt Coronato had put the U.S. 3-2 ahead 6:19 into the final period.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published May 28, 2023.
Succession Planning: Justin’s Excellent Chinese Adventure
Tempers rise as German government’s clean heating plans go up in smoke
Glendale Skatepark now includes on-site mentors from the YMCA
The Formidable Superstar, Jim Brown Never Fit Black Or White Stereotypes
The cyber gulag: How Russia tracks, censors and controls its citizens
EU welcomes F-16 jet decision for Ukraine; pilots already being trained
Blazers’ Logan Stankoven eyeing ‘surreal’ moment to hoist Memorial Cup in hometown
Sports1 day ago
Blais scores twice, Canada beats Germany 5-2 to win gold at men’s hockey worlds
Top Story CP19 hours ago
CP NewsAlert: Halifax wildfire still out of control, thousands forced from homes
2023 Election18 hours ago
Election day: Alberta voters go to the polls, expected nail-biter between UCP, NDP
2023 Election18 hours ago
Some of the memorable comments made during Alberta election campaign
Top Story CP17 hours ago
CP NewsAlert: ‘Red Velvet,’ ‘Alice in Wonderland’ lead Dora award noms
International19 hours ago
Bola Tinubu sworn in as Nigeria’s president amid hopes, skepticism
Justice12 hours ago
B.C. police say remains of Madison Scott, last seen in 2011, have been found
2023 Election19 hours ago
Promise tracker: What Alberta’s UCP and NDP pledge to do if they win the election