Canada’s Connor Bedard scores his third goal of the game during second period IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship action against Germany in Halifax on Wednesday, December 28, 2022. Bedard tops NHL Central Scouting's mid-season rankings of North American skaters ahead of the 2023 draft. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

Bedard tops NHL Central Scouting’s mid-season draft rankings among N.A. skaters

Connor Bedard tops NHL Central Scouting’s mid-season rankings of North American skaters ahead of the 2023 draft.

The 17-year-old centre for the Western Hockey League’s Regina Pats has an astounding 31 goals and 70 points in 29 regular-season games in 2022-23.

Bedard is also coming off a memorable performance at the recent world junior hockey championship, where he set a number of national and tournament records in helping Canada capture its second straight gold medal.

The North Vancouver, B.C., native was the first player granted exceptional status to play in the WHL a year early at age 15, and leads this season’s scoring race by eight points despite missing 11 games while away with the men’s under-20 national team.

Adam Fantilli of the NCAA’s Michigan Wolverines — Bedard’s world junior teammate — is the second-ranked North American skater. He’s followed by fellow forwards William Smith and Ryan Leonard of the United States National Team Development Program, while centre Brayden Yager of the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors rounds out the North American top-5 announced Friday.

Leo Carlsson, a centre with Orebro in Sweden’s top professional league, heads the list of European skaters. Sochi winger Matvei Michkov of the Russian-based Kontinental Hockey League is No. 2.

“Connor Bedard is an outstanding talent with the ability to utilize all of his skills and assets at top speed, placing him on a level of his own right now as the No. 1 prospect for the 2023 NHL draft,” Dan Marr, vice-president of NHL Central Scouting said in a statement. “He is one of the more natural scorers to come along since Patrick Kane with a draft hype reminiscent of Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby.

“Like those three, Bedard is a player that can bring you out of your seat.”

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