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Pats’ Bedard relishing opportunity for return to IIHF World Junior Championship

It should come as no surprise to anyone who covers the CHL that the top scorer in Canadian Major Junior hockey is heading back to the World Juniors.After tearing up the Western League with 64 points in just 28 games Regina Pats forward Connor Bedard is ready to temporarily trade sweaters, once again donning the red and white maple leaf after being named to Team Canadas World Junior Selection Camp.“It’s one of the biggest hockey tournaments in the world, so it’s exciting and it’s an honour. I’m definitely super excited to head out and get started and obviously try to win another gold medal,” the 17-year-old said.Once officially named to the final roster, this will be Bedard’s second full stint at the World Juniors after the 2022 event was halted just a couple of games in due to teams testing positive for COVID, although it was eventually rescheduled for August.

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It adds an interesting wrinkle to the teen phenoms WJHC experience, getting two shots a the tournament in just four months.“It’s kind of weird for, I think, probably the country to have two (tournaments) in just four months now, so that’s probably a little different, he said. “But for us, it’s super exciting, Halifax is a pretty cool spot to have it and I think it’s been sold out for months, so it’s pretty exciting.”

Click to play video: 'Moncton prepares for World Juniors tournament'
Moncton prepares for World Juniors tournament

Bedard is the proud owner of a gold medal from the rare August installment of the tournament; he was stacked up well against competition that was older, bigger and stronger.The forward dominated at times scoring four goals and eight points in seven games, a top-10 scorer in the tournament. Although his role is expected to grow at this next tournament, team Canada’s youngest player isn’t phased by playing on the biggest hockey stage over the holiday season.“(It’s) a challenge (and) a chance to win, that’s the main goal for myself,” he said. “You’re playing against the best 19-year-olds in the world, it’s obviously going to be a challenge, but I think that’s good for me to learn how to do that.”

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“It’s still just hockey, I’m playing the game that I love, playing the game I’ve been doing for 10-11 years. So, I’m having fun and like I said, I get to go play in a World Juniors (tournament) so I don’t think I’m thinking about the other stuff too much.”

His coaches, however, are excited to see what this experience playing in a best-on-best tournament does for their captain’s growth.“When he came back last year, he came back with a new confidence, playing with all of those elite players obviously, and the success he had. I think (he) just realized the next level he could go with his game,” Pats Assistant Coach Brad Herauf said.

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