REGINA -- The Regina Pats confirmed Wednesday that their first overall pick in the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft will be 14 year old Connor Bedard.

The West Vancouver Academy forward was given exceptional player status on Tuesday, becoming the first player in the Western Hockey League (WHL) to be allowed to play in the league at the age of 15.

Regina Pats General Manager John Paddock says, “He’s a tremendous player and I think when it’s the first time it’s going to create a lot of buzz for us as a team and as an organization.”

Last season, Bedard contributed scored 43 goals and had 41 assists in 36 games with the West Vancouver Academy’s U18 Team in the Canadian Sports School Hockey League (CSSHL).

However to get exceptional player status by Hockey Canada, Bedard had to prove his physical and mental maturity and academic ability were suitable for early entry into the WHL.

Bedard said being granted exceptional status is a “surreal” feeling and he’s excited to get to work with the Pats.

“I’ve heard lots of great things, and they’re the oldest franchise so lots of experience, I hear they have great fans and great place to live so I’m really excited and looking forward to being there.”

His exceptional status and going first overall in the draft comes with expectations, but Bedard said he’s just worrying about his game.

“There’s pressure but I just get to go out and play hockey and not really think about that, I don’t really think about that, it’s just a background noise.”

TSN Hockey Scout Craig Button stressed that Hockey Canada does not take these hockey applications lightly, as Bedard is just the seventh player in the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) to be given the status. Button agreed the forward is a rare talent.

“You can look at the numbers and you can look at the statistical record, and it’s pretty impressive, but people that I talk to have been saying that he just continues to show this real aptitude for being able to be highly successful,” Button says.

Paddock even admits that he’s been building up the Pats to possibly compliment Bedard this season.

“During the winter here I’ve thought about different things, and different things we may need to do to tweak the hockey team. To get players best players suited to [Bedard].”

Button adds that drafting a player with so much buzz and promise, like Bedard, can have a trickle-down effect.

“Other players are now really eager to come and play with those players, because they know that there’s so much spotlight, so much notoriety on them, and it gives them a chance to be in the spotlight as well or share the spotlight,” said Button.

The Pats have finished second last in the East Division for the past two seasons in lieu of hosting the Memorial Cup in 2018.

Paddock knows that’s the reality in the wake of building a Championship team.

“I’d say it’s sort of the price we paid the last couple years, of trying to win a couple years in a row before.”

But getting the first selection overall on April 22 for the Bantam Draft makes up for the rebuild.

“Things don’t always turn out how you want them, we know that in life and sports, but this is what we were hoping for, and it’s worked out,” said Paddock.