Photo Credit: Keith Hershmiller / Regina Pats
Connor Bedard is the top prospect in the 2023 NHL Draft on the Smaht Scouting Preliminary Rankings.
He has spent the last three seasons, including this one with the Regina Pats of the WHL. The North Vancouver native was selected by Regina first overall in the 2020 bantam draft following two spectacular seasons with the West Vancouver Hockey Academy, where the hype all began.
Last season with Regina, Bedard put up very impressive numbers, amassing 100 points (51 G, 49 A) in 62 contests. This was good for fourth in league scoring as well as fourth in points per game at 1.61. In competition with the top of his own age group last season (U18 and U20 competitions), Bedard has more than proven his offensive talent putting up 10 goals and 15 points in 11 games across both tournaments.
This season, at the time of writing this (December 30, 2022), Bedard has absolutely torched the WHL competition, with 27 goals and 64 points across 28 games, and I can’t see him wavering much at all from his current production.
Bedard is a prospect whose impact will be felt immediately, and in an immensely positive way. His uncanny release, and ability to read and feed off his teammates is what allows him to create so many positive offensive chances and put up the numbers that we have become accustomed to see from him. Below I’ll break down his play in all three zones, as well as look at his skating.
D.O.B – July 17, 2005
Nationality – Canadian
Draft Eligibility – 2023
Weight –185 lbs
Position – Center
Handedness – Right
Bedard’s Style of Play
Connor Bedard is a generational offensive talent. Simple as that. He overwhelms opponents with his speed, pace, and ability to put defenders on their heels, and can finish any play off with his lightning quick release. In the offensive zone, one thing I really gravitate to with Bedard is his ability to read off his linemates. He is great at pushing the pace and drawing in defenders, and has no problem being the playmaker when he sees fit. He also loves to shoot the puck. Every time he winds up, he puts everything he has into his shots. Bedard has a knack for finding and creating open ice for himself, which pairs beautifully with his release. He can curl and drag the puck in tight to his skates and doesn’t lose any power on his shots. This opens far more shooting lanes and increases deception for opposing goalies. Bedard’s play on the forecheck is a work in progress, which will naturally improve as he adds muscle and fills out his top half. He plays with a chip on his shoulder and isn’t shy of engaging in puck battles. When taking on bigger opponents he often gets rubbed out of the play.
Bedard is great at drawing in attention when carrying the puck. This frees up his teammates and creates many quality scoring chances. Here he pulls in all four defenders forcing them to collapse their box. This opens up his teammate for an uncontested grade A chance.
One of my favorite Bedard clips from last summers (2022) World Junior Hockey Championship. He had just turned 17….
Bedard is not very active when it comes to the defensive side of the game. In many of my viewings I see a lot of coasting, and really no hurry to track back into the play in his own end. When he his defending, I feel he is often quick to transition the play the other way and is often thinking ahead to how the play will develop leading to offense. Similar to someone like Connor McDavid, Bedard has the skill and hockey sense to develop his consistency and play in his own end, it wasn’t until McDavid’s fourth year in the NHL that he really honed in on this aspect of his game. Given Bedard’s generational offensive ability, this won’t hinder his draft stock.
Play in Transition
When defending in transition, Bedard is a passenger. He hovers up high and is looking to transition the play into offense. It’s not often that we see Bedard pressuring and pursuing the opposing puck carrier, but rather deferring to teammates. He is effective in the neutral zone lifting sticks of off-puck players in attempt to disrupt zone entries, and when eager to do so, Bedard has a great stick defending zone entries.
When transitioning the play from defense to offense, Bedard is a magician. He’s got all sorts of tricks in his hat. He can beat you 1 on 1 with his skill using quick agile movements or shoulder fakes. He can feed off his teammates and never has any trouble finding open ice for himself. When carrying the puck up ice, Bedard does a great job scanning and assessing his options. What’s so impressive is that while he’s doing that, he can still separate himself from defenders and create space using a plethora of different dekes and deception tactics.
Connor Bedard is an extremely gifted generational offensive talent. Whichever team is lucky enough to have the lottery balls fall their way will be sprinting to the podium on June 28th to draft Bedard. Bedard’s innate scoring ability is one that we haven’t seen in along time, and I could see Bedard as a challenger for the 50-goal mark in most seasons he is not hampered by injury. Whichever team ultimately selects Bedard won’t be challenging for a Stanley Cup in the next couple years, and the continuous losing may spark a commitment to the defensive side of the game for him, like we saw with Connor McDavid a few seasons back.
December 30, 2022
stats from InStat and EliteProspects
Prospect report written by Ben Jordan. If you would like to follow Ben on Twitter, his handle is @BJordanNHL.
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