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Bedard aims to join Gretzky, Crosby, McDavid in playing for Canadian junior hockey team at 16 – Global News

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The half-dozen who played for the Canadian junior men’s hockey team at age 16 is sprinkled with names like Gretzky, Crosby and McDavid.

Connor Bedard of North Vancouver, B.C., wants to join that group at selection camp in Calgary.


Connor Bedard skates during a practice at the Canadian World Junior Hockey Championships selection camp in Calgary, Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021.


THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

It’s a tall order for an underage teen to compete against more mature players at the world under-20 championship.


Click to play video: 'Connor Bedard invited to Team Canada’s world junior selection camp'



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Connor Bedard invited to Team Canada’s world junior selection camp


Connor Bedard invited to Team Canada’s world junior selection camp – Dec 1, 2021

The first Western Hockey League player to be granted “exceptional status” and enter the WHL at age 15, Bedard led the Regina Pats in scoring with 14 goals and 10 assists in 24 games in his second season upon arrival at selection camp.

READ MORE: Connor Bedard invited to Team Canada’s world junior selection camp

Bedard had yet to turn 16 when he contributed seven goals and seven assists in seven games to Canada’s world men’s under-18 title in April.

The five-foot-nine, 180-pounder is among 20 forwards at the junior team’s selection camp that concludes Monday when Canada’s 25-man roster is unveiled.

“He has to be among the top 22 players is what he has to do,” Canadian head coach Dave Cameron said. “He has to be who Connor Bedard is, which is really good with the puck. He’s a gifted player. He has to come in and show it against this age group.”


Connor Bedard skates during a practice at the Canadian World Junior Hockey Championships selection camp in Calgary, Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021.


THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Canada starts the world under-20 tournament in Edmonton and Red Deer, Alta., on Dec. 26 against the Czech Republic.

READ MORE: Selection camp starts with roster changes for Canadian junior men’s hockey team

It seems Bedard has a long runway to play for Canada’s juniors in the future given his age, but those chances are limited if the NHL club that drafts him in 2023 decides to keep an 18-year-old Bedard on its roster.

“You come in with the intention to make it,” Bedard said. “These guys are a couple years older and the best players in the country.

“It’s a short camp. It’s going to be a couple of games and obviously a few practices. In that short time, just try to show them my game and how I can help the team win a gold medal.”

Canada’s campers will face a U Sports squad in games Saturday and Sunday. Both defenceman Lukas Cormier and forward Mason McTavish skated Friday.

Cormier’s flight to Calgary was delayed and McTavish stayed off the ice Thursday awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test.

Wayne Gretzky (1978), Eric Lindros (1990), Jason Spezza and Jay Bouwmeester (2000), Sidney Crosby (2004) and Connor McDavid (2014) played for Canada’s juniors at 16.

McDavid turned 17 a week after the tournament ended. Bouwmeester is the lone defenceman in the group and was the youngest at 16 years two months and 29 days.

Kingston Frontenacs forward Shane Wright was invited to last year’s selection camp in Red Deer as a 16-year-old, and was released.

That camp was interrupted by a 14-day hotel quarantine for all players after two tested positive for COVID-19, so time for the Burlington, Ont., forward to prove himself was compressed.

Wright, who was Canada’s under-18 captain and Bedard’s teammate, is back at age 17.

“Just the disappointment of not making that team, going into the camp my goal was to make that team and it wasn’t the case,” Wright said. “So I think just use that as motivation to make the team this year.”

Wright and Bedard are among seven players granted major junior hockey’s “exceptional status” which for the last 16 years allows an underage player to enter those leagues if they meet certain criteria.

Current Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares, Aaron Ekblad, McDavid, Sean Day and Wright were granted exceptional status by the OHL. Joe Veleno is the lone QMJHL player to receive that designation.

READ MORE: Regina Pats’ Connor Bedard named Western Hockey League’s top rookie for 2020-21

A 15-year-old Bedard compiled 12 goals and 16 assists in 15 games for the Pats in a 2020-21 season shortened by the pandemic.

The OHL didn’t operate, so Wright says he used the time to build up his strength and power.

“That’s a big part of my game I’ve really improved on,” he said.

He led Canada with a goal and two assists in the under-18 final in Texas, and tied Bedard for a team-leading 14 points in the tournament.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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Bombers extend Most Outstanding Defensive Player Bighill – TSN

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Adam Bighill is staying in Winnipeg.

The Blue Bombers announced Thursday the reigning CFL Most Outstanding Defensive Player has signed a one-year contract extension with the team. 

Bighill has spent the past three seasons with the Blue Bombers, helping the team back-to-back Grey Cups.

A veteran of nine CFL seasons, Bighill has played in 146 games in his CFL career and ranks eighth in league history all-time in total tackles.

The three-time CFL Most Outstanding Defensive Player had 70 tackles and added two quarterback sacks, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries last season. He was named a CFL All-Star for the sixth time in his career.

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Denis Shapovalov Australian Open third round Reilly Opelka – TSN

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Denis Shapovalov needed three hours and 23 minutes to take down Serbia’s Laslo Djere in the first round of the Australian Open on Monday, working through a handful of unforced errors and a fourth-set tiebreak.

It was a cakewalk compared to his second-round matchup.

The Richmond Hill, Ont., native went the distance with Kwon Soon-woo, needing five sets and nearly four and a half hours to dispatch of the 54th-ranked South Korean. Shapovalov lost back-to-back tiebreaks in the second and third sets but battled back to take the final two and avoid an early exit.

Watch his third-round matchup LIVE on TSN4, TSN.ca, the TSN App and TSN Direct at approximately 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT Thursday night.

“It was tough to bounce back every time. In the second set I had a set point on his serve and then the third set I had a couple of set points. I felt I was doing everything the right way, it just wasn’t going my way,” Shapovalov told TSN’s Mark Roe after the win.

“It’s definitely not easy but it’s the case sometimes. I’m just happy to be alive and have an opportunity to play in the third round. I’m pretty young so I’m sure I’ll be alright; I’ve had this before.”

Now it’s on to the third round for Shapovalov where he gets his toughest test of the tournament yet in No. 23 seed American Reilly Opelka.

Opelka has had a much easier road to Round 3, scoring straight-sets victories over Kevin Anderson in the first round and Dominik Koepfer in the second. Standing at 6-foot-11, the big-serving American isn’t much for rallies, combining for 41 aces in his first two matches in Melbourne.

“I think it’s more about recovery to be honest. I mean, Reilly’s game is pretty straightforward. He goes for his serves, he’s going for his ground strokes off the back as well so it’s going to be kind of like a guessing game a little bit on the returns and hopefully, I can take care of business on my serve and hopefully I’m getting good looks, but I’ve just got to stay patient against him,” Shapovalov said.

The 22-year-old comes into the year’s first Grand Slam with some momentum having won the men’s ATP Cup earlier this month in Sydney alongside Canadian teammates Felix Auger-Aliassime, Brayden Schnur and Steven Diez.

Fatigue from a recent bout of COVID-19 forced Shapovalov to sit out the start of the tournament but he said earlier this week he was back to feeling 100 per cent.

“Towards the end of the [ATP Cup] I got really comfortable, and the body felt good again, so that was a good sign. And, of course, leading up to this tournament I had little aches and pains, so I wasn’t practising too much but I’m really happy after the two matches that the body is feeling good and it’s definitely a good sign.”

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Sheldon Keefe calls Leafs 'soft and purposeless' after Rangers collapse – Yahoo Canada Sports

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Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe finally blew a gasket after his team squandered a 3-1 lead for the fourth time in its last five games. (Getty)

Tell me if you’ve heard this before: The Toronto Maple Leafs have a multi-goal lead but their opponents come back to win the game.

Wednesday’s tilt against the New York Rangers played out exactly like that, with the Leafs having a 3-1 lead at the first intermission, and the hometown Rags storming back to earn a 6-3 victory with five consecutive goals.

Toronto head coach Sheldon Keefe called out his team’s effort during his post-game availability, specifically citing the defensive side of their performance.

“Today, I just thought we played soft, and we made poor decisions defensively,” Keefe said

“We couldn’t sort anything out. It was just far different. Each game has been different, so it’s hard to talk about patterns other than the obvious that we’ve been giving up leads. I just thought we got exposed today for being a team that was just soft, soft and purposeless, and just kind of playing the game and hoping it was going to work out.

“I didn’t think we had anybody that played well tonight. Coaches didn’t coach well tonight. So, today is a much different game than we’ve played in the others where we’ve given up leads and such. I just didn’t think we had nearly enough urgency or purpose.”

The Leafs were without two of their top four defenseman in Jake Muzzin (concussion) and Justin Holl (COVID protocol) in New York, but missing personnel is something that can be overcome. Keefe pondered if it was a larger-scale issue that keeps putting the Leafs in this position.

“We’ve had a lot of really good starts,” Keefe said. “Obviously it’s been the finish or the second half of games that haven’t gone well. …Maybe a fast start was working against us. We thought it would be easy the rest of the way. We paid for it.”

Toronto let three third-period leads get washed away by their opponents in the previous four games before Wednesday, making it more of a concerning trend than coincidental bad luck.

The Leafs will take another stab at trying to hold a multi-goal lead when they visit Islanders on Saturday.

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