Pats rookie Connor Bedard ready for life as a WHL player

Connor Bedard. Picture: Hockey B.C.

It’s a game that would have sold out the Brandt Centre quickly in normal times.

Friday night, the Regina Pats will debut Connor Bedard, when they face the Prince Albert Raiders to kick off the 24 game WHL East Division season.

Bedard is the first player in WHL history to receive exceptional player status, which allows him to suit up full time as a 15-year-old.

The North Vancouver product was on the SportsCage Wednesday, and said he’ll use this shortened bubble season to get a feel for the league he’ll be spending the next few years in.

“Just getting use to the league and its pace and how it is and the physicality, how it is playing against older guys and what it’s like to share a room with these more experienced guys,” Bedard told CKRM’s Derek Taylor. “There’s so much you can learn, even in this shortened time,” Bedard added.

For Bedard at 15, it’s not just about learning the WHL game, but also learning to live away from home for the first time in his young life, on top of the unique situation COVID-19 has created.

“So far it’s been good, obviously with COVID it’s a bit weird,” he said. “I’ve lived at home all my life so it’s different, but I think so far it’s been good and I’m enjoying it,” Bedard said.

“I’m super happy, it’s been a big commitment for so many to get us here, and I think we’re all super grateful for that,” Bedard said.

After an appearance in the 2017 WHL final and then the 2018 Memorial Cup final, it’s been back to the drawing board for John Paddock and the Pats, but many feel this will be the year the team take’s it’s first significant step back to being one of the premier clubs in major junior hockey.

Whatever that looks like now, with a 24 game season inside a bubble at the University of Regina and Evraz Place, Bedard, like many others, is excited to see where the team stacks up against the rest of the division.

“So far practicing it’s high tempo, and lots of speed, I think everyone has that excitement to get on the ice and to get to the rink, to be here is a good thing and I’m excited to see how we do coming up real soon,” Bedard said.

The Pats finished the 2019/2020 season with a 21-34-6-2 record before the pandemic shutdown the season, that was good enough for fifth in the East Division, ahead of only Moose Jaw.

Game time Friday night is 8:00 p.m. with Phil Andrews, on 620 CKRM.

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