Connor Bedard breaks Gretzky’s Canadian record in World Juniors blowout

Dec 29 2021, 2:40 am

If you hadn’t heard of 16-year-old Connor Bedard before, he just introduced himself at the World Juniors. 

In a big way. 

At 16 years, five months, Bedard became the youngest player to net a hat-trick for Canada at the World Juniors as part of a four-goal performance in an 11-2 rout against Austria on Tuesday.

Bedard, a potential No. 1 pick for the 2023 NHL Draft, was nearly six months younger than when Wayne Gretzky accomplished the three-goal performance for Canada as part of two hat tricks he had in the 1978 tournament.

“It’s definitely cool just kind of hearing your name with one of, if not the greatest player to ever play the game,” Bedard said. “It’s just one game. I don’t think I’ll be getting 2,800 points in the NHL. It’s obviously cool though, to hear my name with his.”

They’re the only two ever to score three for Canada at 16 in the tournament.

“It’s obviously pretty cool to hear your name with that guy,” Bedard said. “Whenever you get that honour it’s pretty crazy and surreal. It’s the second game of the tournament. I’m trying not to get too high on myself but it’s definitely pretty cool to hear that.”

Bedard is just the seventh player to play for Canada at the World Juniors as a 16-year-old, joining Gretzky (1978), Eric Lindros (1989), Jason Spezza (2000), Jay Bouwmeester (2000), Sidney Crosby (2004) and Connor McDavid (2014).

He scored on back-to-back shots 1:11 apart to push Canada’s lead to 5-0 after the first period.

Bedard followed up his own initial shot to beat Austria goaltender Leon Sommer for his first goal of the tournament. A minute later, he intercepted the puck in the neutral zone to turn the play up ice before finishing a return pass from Will Cuylle for his second. 

Bedard’s exploits, one on the power play and one at even strength, came after Canada had already struck for three goals in 3:59 — with nine different Canadian skaters factoring in — for an unsurprising 3-0 lead midway through the first period.  

“Most of those are kind of just in front of the net and I’m getting a stick on something or something like that,” Bedard said. “It was pretty fortunate. Everyone makes the game easy when you’re here playing with these guys. It was just kind of a good game for our team and obviously lucky to get those goals.”

Bedard finished the natural hat trick in the second period, cutting through the slot before unleashing a wrister over Sommer’s glove to extend the lead to 6-0. 

 

It was a perfect display as to why the 16-year-old was also the seventh player to be granted exceptional status into the Canadian Hockey League in 2020, joining John Tavares (2005), Aaron Ekblad (2011), McDavid (2012), Sean Day (2013), Joe Veleno (2015), and Canada teammate Shane Wright (2019).

Bedard was the first into the WHL.

He scored his fourth goal to make it 8-1 early in the third, tying Canada’s single-game goal record set by Mario Lemieux in 1983 and equalled four times before Bedard’s effort.

Mason McTavish scored twice in 47 seconds en route to an 11-2 finish.

This year’s World Junior Championship is taking place in Edmonton and Red Deer, with 50% arena capacity due to rising cases of COVID-19, driven by the highly-infectious Omicron variant.

Canada returns to action tomorrow against Germany before a meeting with Finland on New Year’s Eve. 

Aaron VickersAaron Vickers

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