Bedard mania is sweeping across the country

Regina Pats hockey phenom Connor Bedard is becoming a must-see with his record-breaking play at the World Junior Hockey Championships.

17-year-old phenom already holds multiple Canadian scoring records at world junior tournament

A Canadian hockey player is to the right side of the picture wearing red and black gear. He keeps the puck from an Slovakian player, wearing blue and white gear, as some members of the audience watch from behind the glass.
Connor Bedard will lead Canada into tonight's semifinal game against the United States at the World Junior Hockey Championship in Halifax. (Ron Ward/The Canadian Press)

Regina Pats hockey phenom Connor Bedard is becoming a must-see with his record-breaking play at the World Junior Hockey Championships.

Bedard broke multiple records in Monday's game against Slovakia, making him one of the best Canadian World Juniors players ever. He has registered the most goals and most points all-time by a Canadian at the tournament. He's also set the new national record for points and the most assists at a single event and passed Jaromir Jagr for the most points by a player aged 18 or younger.

"He's born to be a hockey player," said Regina Pats GM and head coach John Paddock at a news conference.

"Any player doing what he's doing, [even] if they were 19, would be catching the hockey world's attention.

"But he shattered all the records of older players at 17, so it's definitely unheard of."

A Canadian hockey player wearing black uniform guides the puck into the net after beating the Slovakian goaltender, seen not able to cover the net in the right side of the picture. A Slovakian defender is also seen in front of the goal but behind the Canadian player.
Connor Bedard, middle, beats Slovakian goalie Adam Gajan in overtime, lifting Canada to a 4-3 quarterfinal win on Monday. (Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press)

Canada defeated the United States 6-2 on Wednesday night.

Bedard, who's projected to be the first pick in this year's NHL draft, is trying hard to block out all the attention.

"I'm not thinking about that," Bedard said at a recent news conference. "I think that's something that when you're playing the game, you're not worried about what other people are saying."

Hockey player Yonas Nixon says Connor Bedard is a generational talent.
Yonas Nixon, 15, says Connor Bedard is a generational talent. (Louise Bigeagle/CBC News)

Budding hockey stars practising at the Co-operative Centre in Regina this week were in awe of Bedard's talent.

"He's a generational talent, and he'll make a name for himself in the NHL," said 15-year-old Yonas Nixon.

Youngster Ko Yanai was still talking about Bedard's overtime goal against Slovakia.

"He just scored the overtime winner and we just thought wow!"

Hockey player Ko Yanai talks about Connor Bedard's overtime goal against Slovakia.
Hockey player Ko Yanai was in awe of Connor Bedard's overtime goal against Slovakia. (Louise Bigeagle/CBC News)

Bedard is a hot ticket not only with Regina fans, but across the Western Hockey League.

For example, the Saskatoon Blades are averaging about 4,700 fans per game, but when the Pats came to town in November a crowd of almost 8,000 showed up.

Connor Bedard is showing why he's the hottest NHL prospect since Connor McDavid. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

The Blades host the Pats twice more at the end of the year and expect crowds of more than 14,000 for those games.

"Given the team that we have this year [which is near the top of the league] and given what Connor is doing right now with Team Canada … I'd have to think we'd be pretty darn close to selling out SaskTel Centre," said Blades director of business operations Tyler Wawryk.

"Fans understand that they only have a few chances to see him before he's off to the NHL."

A Canadian hockey player tries to separate from a Swedish player as they chase the puck.
Canada's Connor Bedard, right, has registered the most goals (16) and most points all-time (34) by a Canadian at the tournament.  (Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press)

WHL Commissioner Ron Robison said attendance goes up around the league when Bedard comes to town.

That was especially true when the Pats went on a five-game west coast road trip earlier this season.

"Of course, his hometown being North Vancouver, it was a bit of a homecoming for him," Robison said.

"In the five B.C. centres he played in, all those arenas were sold out completely. That was certainly the first impact we saw of the real Connor Bedard effect."

Kevin Shaw, a fan and historian of the Pats, said there hasn't been anyone like Bedard in the WHL.

"The fact he's just 17 … what he's done and all the hype, all the eyeballs and everything that is on him, it's unbelievable," Shaw said.

"I don't think I've ever seen it in the Western Hockey League [before], especially not in Regina."

A Canadian hockey player's stick bends as he winds up a wrist shot.
Canada’s Connor Bedard will be looking to continue his scoring streak against the U.S. tonight in Halifax. (Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press)

Shaw said Bedard's impact on the Pats will carry on long after he turns pro.

"Having Connor Bedard be the first overall pick [in the NHL draft] will be something that will be talked about for years."


Scott Larson works for CBC News in Saskatoon.

With files from Louise Bigeagle, The Canadian Press