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Vancouver’s Connor Bedard breaks Gretzky/Lindros record at 2023 World Juniors

The Vancouver Canucks fan has been dominant at the 2023 World Junior Championship.
Connor Bedard has dominated for Team Canada at the 2023 World Junior Championship.

Wayne Gretzky. Eric Lindros. Connor Bedard.

Those are the three Canadian players with the most points in a single World Junior Championship tournament at the age of 17. And, of those three, Bedard has the most points.

Not only that, but Bedard’s 18 points, one more than Gretzky and Lindros, have come in just four games. Gretzky had 17 points in six games in 1978, while Lindros had 17 points in seven games in 1991.

Bedard is now tied with Jaromir Jagr, who also had 18 points at the age of 17. Jagr needed seven games.

In fact, Bedard is on pace to break a seemingly unbreakable record. Thirty years ago, Peter Forsberg put up an unthinkable 31 points in seven games at the 1993 World Junior Championships. That’s an average of 4.43 points per game. Bedard is averaging 4.50 points per game.

Certainly, the playoff round will likely prove a tougher test for Bedard and make it harder to rack up the points to match Forsberg’s record, but he proved that he can put up points against difficult competition on Saturday night.

Bedard passed Gretzky and Lindros with a four-point game against Sweden, who were undefeated to that point in the round robin stage. The Swedish defence was aimed squarely at preventing Bedard from adding to his tournament-leading six goals and they managed to do that. But Bedard simply pivoted to setting up his teammates, tallying four assists in a dominant 5-1 win.

Those four assists didn’t just break a Canadian single-tournament record, but tied him with Lindros for the most career points by a Canadian at the World Junior Championships. 

Lindros had 31 points across three World Junior tournaments, a total of 21 games. Bedard has 31 points in just 13 World Junior games. He’s almost certain to pass Lindros’s record in the coming week. 

Bedard is technically still eligible for two more World Junior tournaments after this one and would likely be able to catch Forsberg’s all-time record of 42 points if he were to play even one more tournament. That’s unlikely, however, as Bedard is expected to be the first-overall pick at the 2023 NHL Entry Draft and make the jump directly to the NHL for whichever team is lucky enough to draft him.

The odds are slim that the Vancouver Canucks will be that team. While they have seriously struggled this season, they’re still a step above the teams currently tanking at the bottom of the NHL standings.

It’s a shame, as Bedard is a lifelong Canucks fan, even picking the Canucks as his prediction to win the 2023 Stanley Cup. He still tries to watch as many Canucks games as he can, even while starring for the Regina Pats in the WHL and Team Canada at the World Juniors.

“I try to watch as many games as I can,” said Bedard earlier this season. “Obviously, a big fan since I was a kid. I’ve been watching a bit. We’ve been pretty busy. I’ve missed some games, but I’ve been trying to watch.”

Unless the Canucks come crashing down the standings in the back half of the season, it would likely take some miraculous luck in the draft lottery for the longtime Canucks fan to land on his favourite team.

Lekkerimäki and Pettersson come up short against Canada

Two Canucks prospects were up against Bedard for Team Sweden. To the credit of Jonathan Lekkerimäki and Elias Pettersson, they weren’t on the ice for any of Canada’s five goals.

Unfortunately, they also weren’t able to create much themselves. Lekkerimäki had two shots on goal in just over 15 minutes of ice time and was absolutely robbed by Canadian goaltender Thomas Milic, who stretched across with his left pad, even elevating it to take away Lekkerimäki’s chance off the rush.

Lekkerimäki seemed focused more on getting the shot away quickly or he might have tucked the puck under the bar instead of shooting low and hard to the inside post.

Pettersson had a stronger game against Canada than he did against Czechia in their previous game. He simplified his game defensively, keeping Canada to the outside in his 17:08 in ice time, fourth among Swedish defencemen. That included some solid minutes on the Swedish penalty kill.

With the loss to Canada, Sweden finishes third in Group A behind Czechia and Canada and will face their rival, Finland, in the quarterfinals.

Aku Koskenvuo can’t stop Team USA

Speaking of Finland, Canucks prospect Aku Koskenvuo got the start in net for Finland’s final game of the round robin stage against Team USA.

It was a bit surprising that Koskenvuo got the start considering he lost his first game of the tournament, a 3-2 overtime loss to Switzerland. After that, Jani Lampinen stepped into the Finnish net and thrived against Slovakia and Latvia, including a 3-0 shutout against Latvia.

The game between Finland and USA would determine the winner of Group B, who would face Germany in the quarterfinals, so there was a lot at stake. Koskenvuo getting the start was either a major vote of confidence or an opportunity to rest Lampinen for the quarterfinals.

It wasn’t a great performance for Koskenvuo. While he made some sharp stops, he also allowed a couple of soft goals. 

It wasn’t entirely Koskenvuo’s fault. USA was all over Finland all game, forcing Finland’s defence into multiple turnovers with their aggressive forecheck. Koskenvuo had to face far too many grade-A chances, but it’s hard to ignore that he allowed six goals on 30 shots. 

Koskenvuo is unlikely to get another start this tournament, so finishes the 2023 World Juniors with an .842 save percentage. It was far from an ideal performance for the Canucks prospect and provides some indicators of where he still needs to improve to get to the next level. 

Like many larger goaltenders, Koskenvuo’s lankiness is both a strength and a weakness. His size helps him cover a lot of the net, but there’s also a tendency for taller goaltenders to leave gaps in their stance — it’s tougher for a bigger goaltender to be compact and eliminate holes.

Top-tier snipers can take advantage of those holes, which is what we saw from Koskenvuo, as shots snuck over his pad and under his glove or slid under his pads when he couldn’t drop into his butterfly quickly enough.

There’s still a lot of potential in Koskenvuo’s game but he has a long way to go.