BC Hockey announced on Tuesday that Connor Bedard has been granted exceptional status. Bedard applied earlier this year and after careful consideration from BC Hockey and a special evaluation panel from Hockey Canada, they have revealed that the player review process has been completed in Bedard’s favour.
Being granted exceptional status is based on a lot more than just a player’s hockey skills. They take into account academic skills and consult doctors and psychologists to ensure that a player is mature enough both mentally and physically to enter the league at a younger age than most. This is because there are a lot more factors involved in playing major junior hockey than just your skillset. Kids have to find the balance between playing hockey and academics as well.
One of the major reasons why it has taken so long for anyone in the WHL to be granted exceptional status is due to the league’s unique age rules. The WHL drafts players at a younger age then the OHL and QMJHL. While a player can come to the league right after being drafted to the OHL or QMJHL, the WHL makes their prospects play a year of midget before making their way to the WHL full time.
There is a limit on how many games a player can play in their D+1 season in the WHL, however, there is leeway with the rule in rare cases such as injuries. Matthew Savoie was also allowed to play more than the few game limit that players are typically allowed.
This is the first time that a WHL eligible player has been granted exceptional status. Last season, both Shane Wright (OHL) and Matthew Savoie (WHL) applied for exceptional status. While Wright was expected and has since been one of the CHL’s top rookies this season, Savoie was never granted the title. This season, three prospects applied for exceptional status, all WHL eligible. Along with Bedard, Riley Heidt and Brayden Yager applied.
Bedard spent the 2019-2020 season playing in the CSSHL as a 14-year-old. As one of the league’s youngest players, Bedard tore up the league, recording 84 points in just 36 games, 43 of which were goals along with his 41 assists. He finished the season with the most goals and the most points which helped him earn the league’s most valuable player honours.
With the addition of Connor Bedard, the CHL has granted a total of six other players exceptional status, five of which have come from the OHL. John Tavares, Aaron Ekblad, Sean Day, Connor McDavid and Shane Wright were also granted exceptional status. The QMJHL has granted exceptional status on one occasion and that was to Detroit Red Wings 2018 first-round pick, Joe Veleno.
Bedard is the consensus first overall pick for the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft. With the Draft Lottery being held on Wednesday, teams will be anxiously waiting to see if they win the bidding sweepstakes for Bedard.