Today the Regina Pats officially confirmed what has been widely known for nearly a month: North Vancouver’s Connor Bedard is the first pick of the 2020 Western Hockey League bantam draft.
On March 24 Bedard became the first player ever to be granted exceptional status to earn early entry into the WHL. One day later the Pats won the league’s draft lottery, and the team immediately announced that they would make the 14-year-old forward the first overall pick in the draft.
Yesterday the Pats furthered their bond with Bedard, announcing that he had signed a WHL Standard Player Agreement with the club. And today, when the online draft began at 9 a.m. Pacific time, the storied Regina team wasted little time in announcing their pick.
“This is a big day for our organization,” Pats VP of hockey operations and general manager John Paddock stated in a release yesterday announcing their deal with Bedard. “Connor is an exceptional person and a great player; we look forward to seeing him in a Pats uniform next season.”
The exceptional player rule was introduced in 2005 for Canada's three major junior hockey leagues. Bedard is the seventh player to receive the status, and the first in the WHL. John Tavares, Aaron Ekblad, Connor McDavid, Sean Day and Shane Wright were granted early entry into the Ontario Hockey League and Joe Veleno got the same treatment in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
The status is "only granted to a player whose ongoing development is more likely to be significantly enhanced by playing in the Canadian Hockey League as a 15-year-old than by participating in his designated age division next season,” according to the CHL.
“I am so honoured and excited to have the chance to be a part of such a great organization like the Regina Pats,” said Bedard in the release. “I can’t wait to get to Regina and play in front of the awesome fans.”
The five-foot-eight, 165-pound Bedard, who turns 15 in July, led the Canadian Sport School Hockey League's Midget Prep division with 84 points (43 goals, 41 assists) in 36 games for West Vancouver Academy's U18 team in the 2019-20 season.