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North Van's Connor Bedard headlines NHL Central Scouting's players to watch list

Bedard is widely projected to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NHL entry draft

North Vancouver hockey star Connor Bedard is still right in the middle of the radar for the upcoming NHL draft, according to prospect ratings released this week by NHL Central Scouting.

Bedard, who is widely projected to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NHL entry draft, was one of 28 players to earn an “A” rating on Central Scouting’s Preliminary Players to Watch List released Tuesday. The list is a compilation of draft-eligible prospects from all the major development leagues throughout North America and Europe, with those receiving an “A” rating considered as potential first-round draft picks.

Bedard is leading the Western Hockey League in points with 22 and is tied for the lead in goals with 10 through his first 12 games of the season. He has already tallied four game-winning goals in six wins for the Regina Pats.

Bedard has drawn high praise from the NHL’s scouting division.

“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,” said Central Scouting senior manager David Gregory in an NHL release. “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.”

At the start of this season, Bedard became the youngest captain in the 105-year history of the Regina Pats hockey club. Last season he scored 51 goals and 100 points in 62 games for the Pats. In August he notched four goals and four assists in seven games to help Team Canada win gold at the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship in Edmonton.

“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 said in the release. “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.”

Central Scouting’s Players to Watch List will be updated throughout the season. The 2023 NHL entry draft is scheduled for June 28-29 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn.

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