The only thing quiet about Connor Bedard’s visit to the Lower Mainland tonight was his introduction as one of the starting players for the visiting team.
“No. 98, Connor Bedard,” the announcer practically whispered before puck drop, finishing off the lineup for the visiting Regina Pats against the hometown Vancouver Giants.
But Bedard, of course, is no normal out-of-town foe. In fact, he’s from here, a North Vancouver boy who grew up cheering for the Vancouver Canucks, and it was obvious that many of the fans in the sold-out Langley Events Centre were here to see the 17-year-old Pats player widely projected to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NHL entry draft.
Just 10 seconds into the game Bedard came barrelling in on goal, let go his lethal wrist shot, with the puck mercifully deflected away by a defenceman. Another 10 seconds later he slipped a dangerous pass across the crease that very nearly led to a tip-in goal. The game plan for Bedard fans became apparent very quickly: don’t blink.
Twice more in the first period he burst in alone on goal – once to finish off an electric end-to-end rush – but both times he was shut down by Vancouver goalie Jesper Vikman. The end-to-ender was one of the prettiest non-goals you'll ever see. Take a look:
Then, four minutes into the second, Bedard was on the board, picking up an assist with a sneaky pass from behind the net that bounced around before getting banged home by Tanner Howe to give the Pats a 2-0 lead. With that, Bedard extended his point streak to 22 games.
Moments later Bedard made a ridiculous behind-the-back pass that led to to a great chance for the Pats. It was obvious that, along with leading the league in goals, assists and points, Bedard also leads in gasps drawn from the crowd. That was it for the Bedard show on the scoreboard, but his Pats went home happy with a 3-0 win.
“it was pretty electric – a full house," Bedard said after the game. "It’s always exciting to play in front of that.”
There were even a few fans spotted wearing Vancouver Canucks jerseys with Bedard's name added to the back, an optimistic nod to the notion that the phenom might end up on his favourite NHL team next season. Bedard said he certainly felt some love from the Vancouver crowd.
“It’s nice when you have some support on the road," he said. "I’m usually getting yelled at and stuff, so it’s good to hear some cheers.”
It was a fulfilling night for Bedard fans who managed to score a coveted ticket. Bedard, who made history when he became the first-ever player to earn exceptional status and early entry into the WHL, has proven to be well worth the price of admission so far this season, leading the league with 19 goals, 30 assists and 49 points following tonight's game. He recently went viral yet again for scoring a jaw-dropping goal just 10 seconds into a game against the Winnipeg Ice. Check out the skill:
If you didn't catch Bedard in person tonight, don’t worry too much: chances are he’ll be in the NHL next season, putting his skills on display for all to see.