Connor Bedard is without a doubt the best undrafted hockey prospect on the planet right now. He is just as anticipated as some of the very best prospects of the last decade were in their draft classes. We’re talking about Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews type prospects here. He is without a doubt the best junior hockey player I personally have ever seen.
For a lot of people prospects can be exciting when they demonstrate skills that are highly transferable to the NHL, and that is really just the least sexy way possible of saying, “This kid should at least play in the NHL.” There is nothing wrong with that, but it is often the flashier players, the ones regularly being featured on highlight reels that capture the attention of your average hockey enthusiast. Connor Bedard is most certainly that guy.
Many of you probably already have a decent idea of what Bedard is capable of, but just to put it into a little perspective, Bedard had 51 goals and 100 points in 61 WHL games last season. Conor Geekie, drafted 11th overall by the Arizona Coyotes had 24 goals and 70 points in 63 WHL games.
There are a few things that really make Bedard special, but it is his shot that really sets himself apart. I have no doubt that he could score on an NHL goalie tomorrow in a real game situation. Most 17 year old's can’t really come close to saying that, even those playing major junior hockey. I will break down Bedard’s shot and the rest of his game more specifically once or twice later in the season, but for today we are specifically going to look at his performance in the semifinal game against Czechia in the 2022 IIHF world junior championships. This was the first game in which Canada was without Ridley Grieg, which forced them to mix up their lines and Bedard saw a reduced role as a result. Ultimately he didn’t have his best performance, but he did leave his mark on the game with a goal late in the first period. Check out the video below for a shift by shift analysis of his game.
It definitely wasn't Bedard's best game. At five on five he registered just two pass attempts in the offensive zone, neither of which were from or to high or medium danger areas of the ice and neither of which were actually completed. While he was on the ice (All stats are 5 on 5) Team Canada had six shot attempts to Czechia's seven. Canada had just three chances on the rush while Czechia managed five, and just three of Canada's scoring chances came from high or medium danger areas of the ice while Czechia managed four.
Two areas of the game that stood out as bright spots were his shooting and transition game. Of his three shot attempts, two were from high or medium danger areas, both of which made it on net. His single shot attempt from a low danger area did not make it on goal. Two thirds of his shot attempts being from high danger areas is an encouraging sign, but this is of course, a very limited sample size. That being said, his shot is one area of his game that is not really in question.
Bedard's transition data in this game actually quite surprised me. While he was on the ice, team Canada attempted eight offensive zone entries. Of those, Bedard was involved in four of them, all four of which he completed successfully. Of his offensive zone transitions, three were completed by him carrying the puck himself, and one was completed on a pass. His defensive zone transition data was even more surprising. While he was on the ice, team Canada attempted six controlled defensive zone breakouts. Of them, Bedard was directly involved in four of them, successfully completing all four. However, while he appears to prefer to carry the puck himself when crossing the offensive blue line, it appears he may prefer to pass on D-zone breakouts as just one of his four breakouts was completed by him carrying the puck. This is actually quite surprising as well given his habit of playing high in the defensive zone waiting for a breakout pass to find him.
At this point in time, I would describe Bedard as a player that reads offensive plays well, has a very dangerous shot, is very dangerous in transition, but lacks defensive awareness and effort. I would like to see him make more effort on defense and attempt to make more plays in the offensive zone, although this game is most likely an outlier when it comes to his passing data.