Every year, a new crop of NHL Draft prospects get selected. Some classes are better than others. More recently, you look at the 2017 NHL Draft, highlighted by Cale Makar, Nico Hischier, Jason Robertson, Jake Oettinger, Elias Pettersson and more. We all remember back in 2015 when Connor McDavid was selected before Jack Eichel, and plenty of other notable prospects who turned into NHL All-Stars. The latest draft we could be talking about in a few years is 2023, highlighted by top prospect Connor Bedard, potentially the next generational talent in hockey. Here we’re going to go over everything you need to know for the top prospect in 2023.
2023 NHL Draft: Who is top prospect Connor Bedard
Scouting report: What the experts are saying
First, let’s go over some of what Bedard has accomplished early in his career. He played his junior career in the CHL for the Regina Pats of the WHL, scoring 271 points (134 goals, 137 assists) in 134 career games. Bedard scored a goal per game, which is fourth-highest of players with at least 200 games. He is among one of the most prolific scorers in Canadian junior hockey history. Bedard also had 20 points in seven WHL playoff games this season.
At age 17, Bedard scored 23 points (9 goals, 14 assists) in seven games for Team Canada at the U20 World Junior Championship this past winter. He has the most points for Canada in the World Junior Championship with 36 over the course of two tournaments. He also posted 21 points over two tournaments for the U18 World Juniors.
Bedard is only measured at 5’10” and 185 pounds, but size hasn’t held him back at all throughout his career. Let’s take a look at what some experts had to say about Bedard heading into his draft year.
“It seems like as soon as he’s on the rush, even if it’s starting in his own end, but certainly once he gains the blue line on the attack, he’s a threat to score,” NHL Central Scouting senior manager David Gregory told NHL.com back in October 2022. “He has absolute elite puck handling and shooting skills, but you combine that with his hockey IQ and how he thinks it, he’s just so hard to stop and contain.”
“He reminds me so much of Steve Yzerman because he’s got what I call the four corners of excellence,” TSN director of scouting and NHL analyst Craig Button told NHL.com. “He’s got great hockey sense. He sees what’s facing him and is able to adjust and adapt. He’s an outstanding skater. He’s got magnificent hands and the ability to operate in tight spaces, and he’s got NHL scoring ability. He reminds me of Steve Yzerman in this regard too: he’s got a killer instinct. Steve had a steely determination to find a way to be successful and to do whatever it took to win. Connor, to me, has that same type of personality.”
Bedard is just as elite a scorer as you can find anywhere in the world. His puck-handling and skating have been miles ahead of his competition up to this point in his career. He makes plays look easy in the same vein as Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby and Patrick Kane to name a few future Hall of Famers. Bedard has an elite shot and can pretty much put it anywhere he wants. Because of his skating he’s able to gain the zone with ease, making him elite on the breakout and in possession. One thing that stands out when you watch Bedard play is his patience. He uses his elite skating and puck-handling to lull the defense to sleep and get into scoring lanes where he can get the puck past the goalie.
Here are some highlights from this season with Regina:
Button in the above quote compares Bedard to Steve Yzerman. Really, Bedard feels closest to Sidney Crosby given their size is comparable but both are extremely tough on the puck. Bedard’s stick-handling reminds you of Kane. The way he weaves through the defense looks a lot like McDavid. Really, there isn’t much to compare when it comes to generational talents like Bedard. It won’t take too long before he’s the one people are comparing players to in terms of elite skill and talent.
When looking at Bedard at the next level, there may be somewhat of a curve as there is with all generational talent. His skating will make it easy for him to produce points in the NHL right away as an 18-year-old (he turns 18 in July). Depending on his landing spot, think a step above someone like Jack Hughes for the Devils. The two players have similar skillsets and frames. Hughes is able to shake defenders with his speed and skating. Bedard will be able to do the same but probably won’t take long to get into the top of the NHL in scoring.