How many goals will Bedard achieve?
by Lucas AYKROYD|14 MAY 2024
Canada's Connor Bedard is off to a quick start at the 2024 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship with four goals in his first two games.
Picture this scenario. A teenage hockey superstar, overwhelmingly favoured to win the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s rookie of the year, joins Team Canada in Prague. He then scores four goals in his first IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.

Sounds like what 18-year-old Connor Bedard has done so far at this 2024 tournament, right? Sure. But it also describes what Mario Lemieux did in his first Worlds in 1985.

Now, there are key differences. “Super Mario” was 19. And it took nine games for the legendary Pittsburgh Penguins centre – who in fairness had a sore groin early on – to get his four goals en route to a silver medal.

Conversely, Bedard scored twice both in Canada’s 4-2 opening win over Great Britain and in the 5-1 victory over Denmark. And of course, the door remains open for the Chicago Blackhawks sniper to win gold.

Selected first overall in the 2023 NHL Draft, Bedard abhors tooting his own horn. Reporters who inquire about the top Canadian scorer's personal prowess are invariably deflected. He’d rather give a nod to linemates like Pittsburgh’s Michael Bunting or Tampa Bay’s Nick Paul.

“I'm just kind of playing hockey,” Bedard said after beating the Danes. “Got a couple of lucky ones. Guys are making good plays and I've gotten to be the beneficiary. It's always nice to score, but I'm not thinking about it too much.”

Well, it’s early days yet, but hockey historians can’t help thinking about how Bedard is currently on pace to break Soviet great Vladimir Petrov’s modern-day single-tournament goals record from 1973 (18 goals in 10 games).

Yes, that’s highly unlikely. But how about Dany Heatley’s modern-day Canadian record from 2008 (12 goals in 10 games)? Not out of the question.

Fact is, Bedard hasn’t yet shown off everything he can do with his lethally deceptive wrist shot. In the first two games, the 177-cm, 84-kg ace passed up some quality shooting opportunities while trying to feed his teammates.

World Championship teammates and opponents of different ages concur about Bedard’s superlative offensive talents.

“He just reads the play so well,” said Buffalo’s Dylan Cozens, 23, a fellow former World Junior gold medalist (2021) and scoring champ (16 points, 2021). “He’s confident and poised with the puck. He has the ability to see the whole ice and be a threat at all times. It's spectacular. I'm just going to try and learn as much as I can from him.”

“He's shifty,” said Danish assistant captain Patrick Russell, 31, a veteran of the 2022 Olympics and five Worlds. “You never really know what he's going to do. So you've got to play him a little extra hard. He's just a good player. Hard to contain!”

You can’t rule anything out with Bedard. The North Vancouver native was named the IIHF’s inaugural Male Player of the Year in 2023 for a reason.

He has excelled at every level of international competition he’s faced. His all-star performance (7+7=14) in Canada’s 2021 U18 Worlds run to gold was just the beginning.

In his second World Juniors in 2023, Bedard set a new Canadian record with 23 points (9+14=23) en route to gold. Aged 17, he also outdid Czech great Jaromir Jagr (18 points, 1990) to become the highest-scoring U18 player in a single World Juniors. And he became the all-time Canadian leader in WJC goals (17) and points (36).

Here in Prague, he’s set a torrid pace while averaging just 15:13 in ice time per game under head coach Andre Tourigny. That’s well below the 19:47 he averaged under Chicago’s Luke Richardson en route to an NHL rookie-leading 22 goals and 61 points in 68 games this season. Will he see more ice as these Worlds wear on?

If Bedard scores again when Canada plays Austria on Tuesday, he will emulate what another Pittsburgh legend – Sidney Crosby – did in his first Worlds in 2006 at age 18. “Sid the Kid” lit the red lamp in group-stage wins over Denmark (5-3), Norway (7-1), and the U.S. (2-1).

Bedard – the 2023 Canadian Hockey League scoring leader (71+72=143) with the WHL’s Regina Pats – has a history of achieving his goals. And with Team Canada, that usually means him putting a ton of rubber in the net, while also winning another championship. He’s hungry to help Canada defend its 2023 title from Tampere.

“I'm here to win a gold medal, and that's the focus here,” Bedard said.

The record book will take care of itself.