Blackburn’s Big Board is a weekly update on hockey topics that interest me. The topics will vary, from teams who are grabbing my attention to players that deserve a mention, stories that have been making waves, and other hockey-related issues that intrigue my strange brain.
The Connor Bedard sweepstakes is about to begin
After a truly bizarre elimination round last week, the 2023 World Junior Championship ended with Canada repeating as champions and taking home their 20th gold in this event.
Even though I enjoy trolling the country and poking the bees’ nest during this tournament, I must admit that Canada had an impressive run. They deserved to win the title. The fact that Canada can win the tournament despite not having won a Stanley Cup since the advent of the Internet is a good thing. It is important to fuel the superiority complex in some way.
Now that the World Juniors are over, all eyes will be on Connor Bedard, who helped Canada win gold and set a scoring record. He also won MVP of the tournament.
Bedard has probably regained his lead on the pre-draft ranking if any other prospects were chasing him before the tournament. Nine goals and fourteen assists in the seven games of the tournament, and breaking Eric Lindros’ 30-year-old Canada’s record for World Junior points will be key to achieving that.
Bedard is a player with a very impressive offensive set of skills. He showed glimpses of this during Canada’s U20 run. You can tell it’s true when you see the shot release and playmaking ability.
If this sequence led to a score, then it could have been one of the most important assists in tournament history.
Bedard is becoming more and more comfortable with the G-word (generational) when referring to his prospect status. This is especially true after he scored six points on his first night back in the WHL following the WJC. It’s still a good league lead, despite him missing one month to represent Canada.
You’ll hear a lot more from this youngster over the next few months, as he is a unanimous No. It doesn’t look like the hype surrounding his selection will slow down anytime soon. Bedard is content to let his record speak for itself. He has not commented on his performance or the draft in light of the WJC’s historic success with NHL consensus picks.
Bedard has been praised by his teammates for his humility and his leadership. Bedard is doing all the right things and has said it. Teams will be more desperate than ever to secure his rights come June.
I would not be surprised to see teams nearing the bottom of NHL standings increase their efforts to tank, or look for creative ways to obtain lottery picks over the next few months.