The IIHF World Junior Championship is often regarded as a 19-year-old’s tournament but the 2022 edition, despite the cancellation, proved otherwise.
Canada’s Connor Bedard and Russia’s Matvei Michkov, the top two prospects for the 2023 NHL Entry Draft, quickly made themselves comfortable, outshining most of the 2022 draft-eligible players.
Bedard, the youngest player at the 2022 World Juniors at 16, made history on Dec. 28 against Austria. He joined Wayne Gretzky as 16-year-olds to score a hat trick for Canada and he became the sixth Canadian to score four goals in one game at the tournament.
The North Vancouver, B.C. native started the tournament as the 13th forward with time on the second power-play unit. He played 12 minutes and 23 seconds in the first game against Czechia before ramping up to 14:33 against Austria.
After two games, Bedard had four goals and one assist and led Canada in shots with 12. He was second on the team in scoring, just behind Winnipeg Jets prospect Cole Perfetti.
Michkov emerged as the best player for Russia, seeing a big role off the bat. In the opening game against Sweden, he led all Russian forwards in TOI with 18:18 and played 16:24 against the Swiss.
The 17-year-old, who was the youngest player on the Russian roster with a late December 2004 birthday, led the team in scoring with three goals in two games.
In their lone pre-tournament matchup, Michkov scored twice and Bedard netted one in Canada's 6-4 victory over Russia.
While Bedard and Michkov took the 2022 World Juniors by storm, this isn’t the first time the two players dominated a tournament this year.
At the IIHF World U18 Championship in May, Michkov led the tournament in scoring with 12 goals and 16 points as the Russians earned silver, falling to Bedard and Canada in the gold-medal game. Bedard was third in tournament scoring with seven goals and 14 points.
With the 2022 World Juniors over for now, Bedard will return to the WHL’s Regina Pats. The first player in WHL history to gain exceptional status and enter the league at 15, he has 14 goals and 24 points in 24 games this season.
Michkov, who signed a five-year deal last December with SKA St. Petersburg, has two goals and five points in 13 games in the KHL while also seeing time with the team’s MHL and VHL squads this season.