Connor Bedard, the projected No. 1 pick in the 2023 NHL Draft, earned an A rating on NHL Central Scouting’s preliminary players to watch list presented by BioSteel released Tuesday.
The list is a compilation of draft-eligible prospects from all the major development leagues throughout North America and Europe. It will be updated throughout the season as scouts evaluate players.
Bedard (5-foot-10, 183 pounds), a 17-year-old right-shot center, has 21 points (10 goals, 11 assists), seven power-play points (two goals), four game-winning goals and a 56.7 face-off winning percentage (131-for-231) in 12 games for Regina of the Western Hockey League this season.
“It seems like as soon as he’s on the rush, even if it’s starting in his own end, but certainly once he gains the blue line on the attack, he’s a threat to score,” NHL Central Scouting senior manager David Gregory said. “He has absolute elite puck handling and shooting skills, but you combine that with his hockey IQ and how he thinks it, he’s just so hard to stop and contain.”
Bedard could become the second player from Regina selected No. 1 in the NHL Draft (Doug Wickenheiser, Montreal Canadiens, 1980). The last player from the WHL chosen No. 1 was forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of Red Deer by the Edmonton Oilers in 2011.
The players on the preliminary list with A ratings are considered potential first-round picks. Players with B ratings are considered possible second- or third-round choices, and those with C ratings are potential fourth-, fifth- or sixth-round selections.
Bedard had 51 goals and 100 points in 62 games as a 16-year-old with Regina in 2021-22. He also had eight points (four goals, four assists) in seven games to help Canada win a gold medal at the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship.
“He reminds me so much of Steve Yzerman because he’s got what I call the four corners of excellence,” TSN director of scouting and NHL analyst Craig Button said. “He’s got great hockey sense. He sees what’s facing him and is able to adjust and adapt. He’s an outstanding skater. He’s got magnificent hands and the ability to operate in tight spaces, and he’s got NHL scoring ability. He reminds me of Steve Yzerman in this regard too: he’s got a killer instinct. Steve had a steely determination to find a way to be successful and to do whatever it took to win. Connor, to me, has that same type of personality.”
Among the A-rated skaters considered likely to be selected in the top half of the first round are forwards Adam Fantilli of the University of Michigan; Matvei Michkov of SKA St. Petersburg of the Kontinental Hockey League, Russia’s top professional men’s league; Brayden Yager of Moose Jaw (WHL); and Dalibor Dvorsky of AIK in Sweden’s second division.
Fantilli (6-2, 195) is playing center on the top line with left wing Dylan Duke (Tampa Bay Lightning) and Mackie Samoskevich (Florida Panthers) and leads the Wolverines with 15 points (five goals, 10 assists) in six games. In his first draft diary for NHL.com, Fantilli said he considers himself a two-way forward with an eye on emphasizing his ability in the offensive zone but not forgetting about the importance of the defensive zone.
“His coach (Brandon Naurato) is already putting him into every situation as if he’s their best player, and he pretty much is,” Gregory said. “He’s adapted well, because he’s a good skater, to the pace of play in college and is having an impact already. He’s deadly on the power play because he’s got great vision.”
Michkov (5-10, 172) a 17-year-old left-shot center, sustained a lower-body injury in an exhibition game in August but has since returned to training. Signed with SKA St. Peterburg through 2025-26, he has no points in one game. He had 13 points (eight goals, five assists) in five games to help Russia win a gold medal at the 2021 Hlinka Gretzky Cup.
Yager (5-10, 166) leads Moose Jaw with 12 points (four goals, eight assists) and seven power-play points (one goal, six assists) in 10 games. In his first draft diary for NHL.com, Yager said his strengths include being a “fast, smart, 200-foot player who can score goals and be put in any situation, whether it’s defending a lead or needing a big face-off or goal.”
Dvorsky (6-1, 201), a native of Zvolen, Slovakia, plays for AIK in Allsvenskan. He has five points (three goals, two assists), two power-play goals and 13 shots on goal while averaging 13:34 of ice time in six games. The 17-year-old had two points (one goal, one assist) in four games for Slovakia at the 2022 World Juniors.
William Smith (6-0, 178) is one of four players from USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program Under-18 team to receive an A rating on the PTW list. The right-shot center leads the NTDP with 23 points (eight goals, 15 assists) in 11 games. He’s committed to Boston College in 2023-24.
There are two A-rated goalies on the list: Carson Bjarnason of Brandon (WHL) and Michael Hrabal of Omaha of the United States Hockey League.
Bjarnason (6-3, 186) is 6-2-1 with a 1.99 goals-against average, .945 save percentage and one shutout in nine games. He leads WHL goalies with 310 saves.
“He’s very focused and determined with very good quickness, especially in reactions, recovery and lateral play,” said Al Jensen of Central Scouting. “He’s got good overall net coverage and has good pro potential.”
Hrabal, born in Prague, Czech Republic, is 2-0-3 with a 2.16 GAA, .940 save percentage and one shutout in five games as a USHL rookie. He’s committed to the University of Massachusetts for 2025-26.
Photo: Keith Hershmiller/Regina
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Netherlands dominate USA in first knock-out World Cup match
The Netherlands have put three goals past the USA to book a place in the football World Cup quarter-finals in Qatar.
Despite scoring once, the USA posed little challenge to their opponents, who repeatedly outclassed the Stars and Stripes at the Khalifa International Stadium on Saturday.
Matt Turner in the USA goal produced some spectacular saves to deny the Dutch a larger scoreline, while his opposite number Andries Noppert was called upon far less frequently.
Although the USA enjoyed long periods of possession in a bright first-half display, all too often a lack of composure in the final third let them down.
Instead, it was the Dutch who calmly bided their time before carving open the USA defence with forensic precision.
USA forward Christian Pulisic squandered a golden chance to put his team 1-0 up after only three minutes when he found himself in space only to see a scuffed shot saved.
But the Netherlands grew into the game, with Memphis Depay and Daley Blind finding the net after being both assisted by Denzel Dumfries in the 10th and the first minute of first-half added time, respectively.
Cody Gakpo cleared Tim Ream’s header off the line early in the second half to keep the Netherlands’ advantage safe, but the men in orange wasted chances to put the game to bed.
Second-half substitute Haji Wright cut the US deficit to 2-1 in the 76th minute when Pulisic’s cross hit his trailing foot and popped over Noppert and into the net.
But Dumfries restored a two-goal lead for the Netherlands in the 81st minute – this time Blind provided the assist.
Runners-up in 1974, 1978 and 2010, the Oranje extended their unbeaten streak to 19 games and will face next the winner of Saturday’s evening clash between Argentina and Australia.
FIFA World Cup 2022 Qatar Uruguay beats Ghana Group H Jordan Ayew Giorgian de Arrascaeta
AL WAKRAH, Qatar (AP) — Luis Suarez couldn’t watch as his Uruguay team slid toward a painful World Cup exit. He put his hands in front of his eyes, then pulled his shirt over his head. When his face emerged again, there were tears.
The Uruguay captain sat in the dugout after being substituted as his team beat Ghana 2-0 on Friday but was still eliminated from the tournament by a stoppage-time goal in another game.
A late goal by Hwang Hee-chan secured South Korea a last-gasp 2-1 win over Portugal and a place in the last 16 from Group H at Uruguay’s expense because it scored more goals. After the most dramatic end to the group, Portugal advanced as group winner and South Korea clinched second.
Ghana, which came into the last set of games in second place, was also eliminated.
“It is sadness and disappointment that we feel,” said Suarez, who was playing in his last World Cup. “I was lucky enough to play my fourth World Cup, and I was thinking about my 4-year-old son, who is leaving with the image of sadness. It’s difficult, but it’s up to me to face the situation.”
When Suarez left in the 66th minute of the game, Uruguay was in a position to advance to the knockout stage for a fourth straight World Cup. He had played key roles in both Uruguay goals by Giorgian De Arrascaeta, which came after Ghana captain Andre Ayew missed a 21st-minute penalty.
A shot by Suarez led to De Arrascaeta’s opener in the 26th minute. Suarez then set up the second with a clever pass that De Arrascaeta volleyed in six minutes later.
By the time the final whistle blew, Uruguay’s 2-0 lead still stood but the 35-year-old Suarez’s World Cup career was over.
The realization that it might be heading that way came for Suarez when a screen at the stadium flashed up news of South Korea’s late goal against Portugal. Before that, Suarez was smiling in the dugout.
Uruguay desperately chased another goal through eight minutes of stoppage time. One goal would have been enough to advance on goal difference.
Substitute Maximiliano Gomez hit a shot that Ghana goalkeeper Lawrence Ati Zigi saved by diving to his right in the final minutes. Sebastian Coates missed a shot just wide. Uruguay also had two claims for a late penalty turned down. Several Uruguayan players angrily confronted the referee after the match as they were headed off the field.
“They broke their backs. They gave their best,” Uruguay coach Diego Alonso said.
At the end, the Ghana fans at Al Janoub Stadium chanted “Korea, Korea, Korea” and celebrated Uruguay’s exit, testament to the bitter resentment they still feel towards Suarez and the rest of the national team for one of the most contentious games in World Cup history.
Suarez was responsible for Ghana’s World Cup elimination in the quarterfinals 12 years ago. Then, his deliberate handball on the goal line denied Ghana a certain goal at the very end of extra time.
Suarez was sent off but celebrated wildly on the sidelines when Ghana forward Asamoah Gyan missed the resulting penalty. Uruguay went on to win in a shootout.
That 2010 game loomed over this rematch, stoked by Suarez’s refusal to apologize for his handball when asked to do so on the eve of the game in Qatar by a Ghanaian journalist, who said the player was now known as “el diablo” — a devil — in Ghana.
Ghana coach Otto Addo said the game wasn’t about revenge for 2010.
“What hurts the most is we are out,” Addo said. “It doesn’t matter who it was.”
But that sentiment was not shared by the majority of Ghanaians in the crowd, who booed Suarez every chance they got. One held up a sign before kickoff that read: “Revenge 4 2010.”
The same sign was held up again at the end as Suarez trudged off the field crying.
Ghana’s exit was also painful, and memories of the 2010 agony were revived with Ayew’s missed penalty. Ayew was the only member of Ghana’s current squad on that team, although he missed that quarterfinal match because of a suspension.
He went low to the bottom right corner with his penalty and Uruguay goalkeeper Sergio Rochet guessed right to push it away with his left hand.
“This is football,” Addo said. “Sometimes football is really, really beautiful. Sometimes it’s ugly. Today it was ugly for us.”
ADDO STEPS DOWN
Addo said he was stepping down as Ghana coach in keeping with a promise he’d already made that he would only lead the team until the end of the World Cup.
BOTH GOING HOME
Uruguay missed out on a place in the last 16 for the first time since 2006, when it didn’t qualify for the World Cup. Ghana, a four-time African champion, has exited in the group stage at the last two World Cups it has played.
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