'Really special': 15-year-old Bedard delivers on hype with 2 goals in WHL debut
REGINA -- Exceptional status rookie Connor Bedard delivered on the hype in his first game in a Regina Pats uniform, scoring two goals in a 6-3 loss to the Prince Albert Raiders.
"It was really special," Bedard said, speaking to the media after the game. "It's a special feeling to get on that ice and finally be able to play for Regina."
The 15-year-old was all over the offensive zone in his Pats debut, registering a team leading seven shots on net. He also won 10 out of his 14 faceoff attempts.
Bedard was in on the offensive action immediately, nearly getting a shot past Prince Albert goalie Max Paddock just moments into his first shift.
"There's nerves going in and I think that was a good shift," Bedard said. "I think I took a hit, got in on the forecheck there and those nerves kind of go away once you get on the ice."
After the Pats went scoreless in the first period, Bedard netted two highlight reel goals just 47 seconds apart in the second period.
"I was pretty pumped," Bedard said. "It's definitely good to get that first one out of the way and then you can just play."
The offensive outburst did not come as a surprise for Pats Head Coach Dave Struch.
"We [were] anxious to see it, we anticipated it. And he did a great job, he was really fun to watch," Struch said. "So many people talk about his skill level and all of that stuff being special. You watch the kid play that hard and compete that hard at 15-years-old, I think that's what makes him special."
Last spring, the North Vancouver product became the first player in Western Hockey League (WHL) history to be granted exceptional player status to compete at 15 years-old.
With the Western Hockey League season on hold, Bedard opted to spend the fall playing for a junior team in Sweden. Struch said his success overseas was a good indicator for how he might adapt to the WHL game.
"He did it there. For these young guys at 16 and 17-years-old, it usually takes them a couple [to] three months to work themselves in and he did things like that over there," Struch said. "There's a reason he got the status he got."
Although the 15-year-old was playing in his first ever WHL game, he feels his experience in Sweden helped him get up to speed ahead of time.
"Playing U20 there, that’s a really good league, that’s a high skill league, and talented, and big guys," Bedard said.
"I think that helped me coming in and just getting used to even practice, playing at that pace in practice and learning what I need to do, what I need to adjust, just trying to figure out a way to be effective."
Bedard's teammates were also impressed by his performance, drawing praise from captain Logan Nijhoff.
"He's an incredible player," Nijhoff said. "The way he shoots the puck, I've never seen anyone shoot like that."
"He's got a lot of confidence and that's just kind of what we preach to him: just play the game that you are used to playing."
The Regina Pats will be back on the ice Sunday, to take on the Saskatoon blades at 4 p.m. MT.