The 17-year-old from North Vancouver had an assist and a bucket full of highlight-reel plays in the Regina Pats’ 3-0 win over the Vancouver Giants before a sellout crowd in Langley.
Poor Drew Sim.
Normally a goalie pitching a 47-save shutout against his former team would be the runaway centre of attention but that wasn’t the case for Sim in the 3-0 win for the Regina Pats over the Vancouver Giants Friday. Not with Connor Bedard involved.
Bedard, the 17-year-old centre from North Vancouver projected to go No.1 in next summer’s NHL Draft, was playing his first-ever junior game in his home province and that commanded an announced sellout crowd of 5,276 at the Langley Events Centre.
It was the opener of Regina’s five-game B.C. road swing. They’re visiting the Victoria Royals Saturday. All five games are expected to be sell outs.
Through their first nine home dates, the Giants announced attendance average was 3,017. With Friday’s game, it’s now 3,243.
The fans at the LEC Friday witnessed Bedard steal the puck in the neutral zone off the opening face-off and dart down the ice for a chance, similar to a highlight reel goal he scored last week in Winnipeg. They saw a rush that started at his own hash marks, featured him wheeling around Vancouver defenceman Mazden Leslie at the Giants blue line and then having his quick shot kicked away adroitly by the let pad of opposing netminder Jesper Vikman.
There was a shimmy at the blue line that left Vancouver winger Ethan Semeniuk standing still and brought about a collective gasp from the crowd. There was a behind-the-net back pass that led to Regina’s second goal and pushed Bedard’s point streak to 22 games, which has consisted of every Regina game this season since the season opener, when Bedard was blanked despite 10 shots on goal.
Friday’s large crowd came for Bedard’s greatest hits. He played them all.
“He’s a threat every time he’s out there. He’s an elite finisher, he’s an elite playmaker,” Giants coach Michael Dyck said afterwards. “When you have that you not only have to be aware of where he is but you have to be aware of where everybody else is.
“It’s nice to have someone who can come out here and sell out buildings. The Quebec league had it with (Sidney) Crosby, Ontario had it with (Connor) McDavid. Not that I’m putting that kind of pressure on Connor, but it’s nice to have a guy like that for our league.”
Bedard’s rapid-fire release has been well documented already, and it was on full display in his seven-shot night Friday. He’s averaging six shots per game. His 143 shots as of Saturday morning where 36 more than second place in that category in the league.
What also strikes you seeing Bedard live is how much the puck seems to follow him around. He’s one step ahead of everyone else on the ice in terms of processing what’s happening.
The assist upped his league-leading point total to 49, including 19 goals, in just 23 games. Friday was the 100th regular season game of his WHL career and he had totalled 82 goals and 177 points in that span. He would have played his first games in B.C. earlier if not for the COVID-19 pandemic.
“He is so creative and so good with the puck and his vision is off the charts,” said Giants forward Zack Ostapchuk.
It was a decidedly pro-Bedard crowd on hand. There were fans with Vancouver Canuck jerseys with his name on the back. There were jeers when it was announced that he had received an embellishment penalty late in the second period after getting tangled up with Vancouver defender Dylan Anderson, who was sent off for holding penalty. There was a “We want Bedard,” chant late in the third.
“It was pretty electric – a full house,” Bedard said. “It’s always exciting to play in front of that.
“It’s nice when you have some support on the road. I’m usually getting yelled at and stuff, so it’s good to hear some cheers.”
The Giants had picked Sim, 19, in the third round of the 2018 WHL Draft. He made his debut in March, 2020, and he split duties with Trent Miner in the truncated hub season in 2020-21. He lost out on the back-up job last year to Will Gurski and was dealt to the Pats on Oct 13, 2021, for a fourth-round pick in 2024.
His best stop Friday was likely a blocker save on a hard-charging Ostapchuk in the second period. Ostapchuk had another try in the second that seemed to hit someone in a gaggle of Regina defenders sprawled in the crease during a scramble.
“Obviously he robbed me once and chirped me a little bit and I’ll give it back to him. It’s all friendly with him,” said Ostapchuk. “He played really well. He’s a good guy. When he plays really well you have to give him credit.”
Bedard added: “Obviously Simmer had an unbelievable game. He made it easy for us.”
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