North Vancouver hockey phenom Connor Bedard is wearing the captain's "C" on his chest for Team Canada at the IIHF U18 World Championships which began over the weekend in Germany.
Bedard is the sole returning player for Canada as the team looks to repeat as champions in the tournament running April 23 to May 1 in Landshut and Kaufbeuren, Germany.
The 16-year-old will be bringing some championship experience with him to Germany following his appearance at the same event last year. Playing as a “double-underage” player at the 2021 tournament in Texas, Bedard finished tied for second with teammate Shane Wright on the tournament’s points list, collecting seven goals and seven assists in seven games. He scored a hat trick as Canada defeated Sweden 8-1 in the semifinals and added a goal and an assist in Canada’s 5-3 win over Russia in the gold medal game.
The Regina Pats forward, named Western Hockey League Rookie of the Year in the COVID-shortened 2020-21 season, racked up 51 goals and 49 assists in 62 games for the Pats this season, becoming the youngest player in WHL history to score 50 goals in a season. The Western Hockey League announced Thursday that Bedard is the 2021-22 East Division Player of the Year. He is also one of four nominees for the Four Broncos Memorial Trophy, awarded to the WHL Player of the Year.
Bedard also made history at the 2022 World Junior Championship last December, even though the tournament was cut short by COVID-19 concerns. He was just the seventh Canadian ever to play in the tournament at age 16 – joining the likes of Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby and Wayne Gretzky – and he became the youngest player in tournament history, and first Canadian ever, to score four goals in a game when he accomplished the feat in an 11-2 win over Austria.
In 2020, Bedard became the first-ever player granted exceptional status and early entry into the WHL. He is widely considered to be the favourite to be selected first overall in the 2023 NHL draft.
Selecting a Canadian squad for the IIHF-sanctioned U18 championships has traditionally been difficult for Canada, as it usually takes place during the playoffs of Canada's three major junior leagues. Bedard’s Pats, however, did not make the playoffs, making him available for the tournament.
Other B.C. links on Team Canada include forward Mathew Ward from Kamloops, who plays for the WHL’s Swift Current Broncos; forward Brayden Schuurman from Abbotsford, who plays for the WHL’s Victoria Royals; forward Matthew Wood from Nanaimo, who plays for the BCHL’s Victoria Grizzlies; defenceman Lukas Dragicevic, who plays for the WHL’s Tri-City Americans; and defenceman Grayden Siepmann, who plays for the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen. The full roster is on the Hockey Canada website.
Canada open the U18 championships with an 8-3 loss against the United States April 23 but bounced back with an 8-3 win over Germany April 24. Bedard has four goals and an assist through the team's first two games. Canada will play Czechia April 26 in the final preliminary game. The tournament final is scheduled for Sunday, May 1.
TSN will broadcast all of Team Canada’s preliminary-round games as well as the quarterfinals, semifinals, and the bronze and gold medal games.
− with files from The Canadian Press