Connor Bedard’s tour-de-force performance at the 2023 World Juniors has made him the key talking point of the hockey world and he’s impressed some of the best players in the NHL.
Bedard will go for gold Thursday evening as Canada squares off against Czechia. Prior to Thursday’s final, Maple Leafs players joined others across the league in showing their respect for the presumptive top pick in this summer’s NHL Draft.
“It’s special, really. Like anyone you guys probably asked in the NHL, what they’re saying about him, what a talent, what a move that was, the other game. Getting to the net, getting the puck there,” Maple Leafs star Mitch Marner told reporters Thursday.
“He’s real fun to watch for sure. He’s got a lot of skill, we all know that, his shot’s unreal. His work ethic, it’s been great to watch for me. It’s hard to watch a Regina Pats game in Ontario, especially being an OHL guy, but it’s been fun to watch the last couple of World Juniors, seeing him explode.”
Marner isn’t the only member of the Maple Leafs wowed by Bedard’s scoring exploits.
“He looks like a pretty special player,” defenseman Mark Giordano said of Bedard after Toronto’s morning skate. “I think any time you’re able to put up the numbers he’s been able to put up in that tournament, it’s a pretty good tournament. It’s cool to see him doing it in the big moments. You know the other team is keying in on him and he’s still able to put up those big goals in big moments that are huge for the team. “
Bedard leads the tournament in scoring with nine goals and 23 points — as a point of comparison, United States forward Logan Cooley, who went third overall to the Arizona Coyotes last summer, ranks second with six goals and 12 points. The 17-year-old has been dominating with style, showcasing a laser-like release from the top of the circle. Bedard scored one of the greatest goals in World Juniors history on Monday, dangling through the entire Slovakian defense before tucking home the overtime winner in a 4-3 quarterfinal win.
Bedard’s dominance over the tournament isn’t altogether surprising. He’s been on the radar of NHL stars prior to his scoring binge over the past two weeks.
"I skated with Connor Bedard this summer and I was with some of the best in the NHL, and he was the guy that stuck out to me," Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane said of Bedard to in December. "I think the hype is real. I think he's going to be an amazing player."
Bedard is . He’s the center of attention in the hockey world. And before long, Marner, Giordano, Kane and other NHL stars will be among his peers, perhaps pondering the same questions as several other teenagers have this winter: how the hell do you stop Connor Bedard?
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