Despite the tournament being the first look scouts have gotten at some of the 2021 NHL Draft eligibles, discussion surrounding the 2021 IIHF World Championship was dominated by players not eligible until next year – and in the case of Matvei Michkov and Connor Bedard, not eligible for two years.
Those two, along with Team Canada’s captain, Shane Wright, have all been designated franchise-altering talents and the future of the sport. The trio met in the gold-medal game – in which they had a hand in all but one of the game’s goals as the Canadians edged the Russians 5-3.
The competition also produced exceptional performances from the top of next year’s draft class, highlighting its potential to be one of the strongest in recent years. Let’s examine some of the underagers that stood out in Frisco.
Matvei Michkov – Winger – Russia – 2023 eligible
7GP – 12G – 4A
Michkov capped off a record-breaking season in the MHL with an MVP performance at the U18s as an underager. In his first appearance in North America, the phenom gave the fans in Texas and those watching on television an unforgettable first impression.
The 16-year-old, who is eligible for the 2023 draft due to his late birthday, entered the tournament with lofty expectations and met every single one. Sure, he didn’t reach Alex Ovechkin’s record of 14 goals in a single tournament, but the 12 he did score were all reminiscent of his compatriot. He picked corners every game, scored at important times for Russia, and even mixed in a through-the-legs goal and a Michigan. Just like Ovie, he’s got the talent and the swagger.
Connor Bedard – Center – Canada – 2023 eligible
7 GP – 7G – 7A
Get used to seeing Bedard compared to Michkov, there are still two more seasons until they will be drafted, and potentially six until they are both in the NHL as Michkov has a contract with SKA St. Petersburg until 2025-26.
Just like Michkov, there was a lot of weight put on Bedard’s shoulders prior to the tournament. He smashed the record for points-per-game by an exceptional status player in the CHL, albeit in just 15 games against relatively weaker opponents. Thus, everyone pointed to Connor McDavid’s 14-point performance at the 2013 tournament as a 15-year-old as the measuring stick – coincidentally the last time Canada won gold.
The Vancouver native matched that record with a hat-trick in the semi-final and a one-goal, one assist outing in the gold medal game.
Bedard came as advertised in Frisco, demonstrating his game-breaking skill and elite shooting ability. What may have come as a surprise to those watching, was Team Canada coach Dave Barr’s reliance on the 15-year-old in all situations.
Perhaps no moment greater demonstrated Bedard’s professionalism than his goal in the final game against Russia. Visibly distraught on the bench after missing a penalty shot, he went out on the next shift and did this: