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Bedard, Hughes brothers headline TSN's Top 50 Under-24 players

Connor McDavid Michael Bunting Edmonton Oilers Toronto Maple Leafs Connor McDavid Michael Bunting - The Canadian Press

Expectations are sky high for Connor Bedard, but projections may even exceed them.

The Chicago sensation is No. 1 on TSN’s annual list of the Top 50 NHL-affiliated players and prospects aged 23 or younger as of season’s start.

It is part of the Core 4 U-24 Project, which identifies and projects who will be the best players in each of the 32 organizations. Players had to be 23 or younger as of Oct. 10 to qualify for the list.

TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button says Bedard belongs in elite company.

“He is to Chicago what Crosby was to Pittsburgh and McDavid to Edmonton as 18-year-olds,” says Button.

Bedard gets the nod as best of the U-24 bunch, even in the face of super-human starts to the season by a pair of brothers who have taken big steps forward.

No. 2-ranked Vancouver left defenceman Quinn Hughes, who turned 24 four days into the season, enters games Wednesday as the NHL scoring leader (18-22-30).

And if, in the odds-defying event, Hughes were to win the Art Ross Trophy, he would join the legendary Bobby Orr as the only defencemen to win the points title. He is already just the third blueliner to reach 30 points in fewer than 20 games. The Canucks’ captain has done it in 19 games.

Meanwhile, No. 3 New Jersey centre Jack Hughes, 22, has averaged two points per game, totalling 22 in just 11 games. He missed five games with a shoulder injury, returning Saturday to earn, predictably, two points versus the Rangers.

So, why is Bedard ranked ahead of Quinn and Jack?

“Because it’s not about today,” says Button, “it’s about tomorrow.”

Button is projecting that Bedard, at his best in the years to come, will be better than Quinn and Jack at their best, now or in the years to come.

Let there be no mistake, that is saying something.

Consider this: 2019 first-overall pick Jack Hughes had seven goals in 61 games in his rookie season; 2023 first-overall pick Bedard has nine in 16 games this season.

And this: Quinn Hughes was runner-up in Calder voting at age 20; Bedard has taken a commanding lead in the Calder race four months after turning 18.

“The NHL’s best player early this season was Jack Hughes,” Button says. “The best player right now is Quinn Hughes. But Bedard will ultimately be better than both of them.”

Bedard is three years and two months younger than Jack, five years and nine months younger than Quinn, so he has runway ahead of him to match or exceed the Hughes brothers. (By the way, the third Hughes sibling, 20-year-old New Jersey left defenceman Luke, is ranked No. 13.)

Button says he has been surprised by only one part of Bedard’s game: his ability to drive play 5-on-5 in his rookie season, earning 13 points at even strength versus two on the power play.

With 9-6-15 totals in 16 games, Bedard is on pace for 46 goals and 77 points in 2023-24.

Were Bedard to reach the half-century mark in goals, he would be the youngest 50-goal scorer, eclipsing Wayne Gretzky who was 19 when he had 51 for Edmonton in 1979-80.

If no player emerges to surpass Bedard, this will be the first of what could be a six-year run for the Canadian atop TSN’s U-24 ranking. He won’t age out until the 2029-30 season.

Last season’s No. 1, Colorado superstar Cale Makar, aged out this season.

Bedard, Quinn Hughes and Jack Hughes all earned AAA superstar status in the TSN grading system. No. 4-ranked Ottawa centre Tim Stutzle, 21, is the only other U-24 player to earn that grade.

The Senators are the only team with two players in the top 10: Stutzle and LD Jake Sanderson (No. 7). Montreal LW Cole Caufield is at No. 8.

Vancouver, with Hughes and RD Tom Willander (No. 45), has two players in Top 50, as does Calgary with No. 22 Dustin Wolf, the top-ranked goalie on the list, and No. 50 RW Matt Coronato.

Other Canadian team representatives are Winnipeg LW Cole Perfetti (No. 31), Edmonton RD Evan Bouchard (No. 32) and Toronto LW  Matthew Knies (No. 35).

There are 20 Americans and 15 Canadians in the Top 50. Last year there were 19 Canadians and 15 Americans.

The full breakdown this year is USA (20), Canada (15), Russia (6), Sweden (5), Germany (2) and Czechia (1).

Listed below is TSN’s 2023 list of the Top 50 NHL-affiliated players and prospects aged 23 or younger as of season’s start. In parentheses are last year’s ranks.


Core 4 - Top 50 Players

Player Team Pos. Age  Country
1. Connor Bedard Chicago C 18 CAN
2. Quinn Hughes (9)  Vancouver  LD 24 USA
3. Jack Hughes (3) New Jersey C 22 USA
4. Tim Stutzle (17) Ottawa C 21 GER
5. Rasmus Dahlin (5) Buffalo LD 23 SWE
6. Moritz Seider (12) Detroit RD 22 GER
7. Jake Sanderson (26) Ottawa LD 21 USA
8. Cole Caufield (15) Montreal LW 22 USA
9. Owen Power (14) Buffalo LD 20 CAN
10. Leo Carlsson  Anaheim C 18 SWE
11. Noah Dobson (24) NY Islanders RD 23 CAN
12. Andrei Svechnikov (16) Carolina RW 23 RUS
13. Luke Hughes  New Jersey LD 20 USA
14. Adam Fantilli Columbus 19 CAN
15. Logan Cooley (46) Arizona C 19 USA
16. Matvei Michkov, Sochi Philadelphia RW 18 RUS
17. Cutter Gauthier, Boston C  Philadelphia LW 19 USA
18. Dylan Cozens (41) Buffalo C 22 CAN
19. Lucas Raymond (18) Detroit LW 21 SWE
20. Matt Boldy (21) Minnesota LW 22 USA
21. Matty Beniers (22) Seattle C 21 USA
22. Dustin Wolf, Calgary (AHL) Calgary G 22 USA
23. Jesper Wallstedt (35), Iowa Minnesota G 20 SWE
24. Wyatt Johnston (31) Dallas RW 20 CAN
25. Mason McTavish (32) Anaheim C 20 CAN
26. Devon Levi Buffalo G 21 CAN
27. Bowen Byram (13) Colorado LD 22 CAN
28. K’Andre Miller NY Rangers LD 23 USA
29. Brandt Clarke (48), Ontario Los Angeles RD 20 CAN
30. Quinton Byfield  Los Angeles RW 21 CAN
31. Cole Perfetti (30) Winnipeg LW 21 CAN
32. Evan Bouchard  Edmonton RD 24 CAN
33. Trevor Zegras (11) Anaheim C 22 USA
34. Pavel Mintyukov (39) Anaheim LD 19 RUS
35. Matthew Knies Toronto LW 21 USA
36. Brock Faber   Minnesota RD 21 USA
37. Kevin Korchinski  Chicago LD 19 CAN
38. Will Smith, Boston C San Jose C 18 USA
39. Alexander Nikishin, SKA Carolina LD 22 RUS
40. Matt Poitras Boston C 19 CAN
41. Jimmy Snuggerud (49), Minnesota St. Louis RW 19 USA
42. Ryan Leonard, Boston C Washington RW 18 USA
43. Oliver Moore, Minnesota Chicago  C 18 USA
44. David Jiricek (44) Columbus RD 20 CZE
45. Tom Willander, Boston U Vancouver RD 18 USA
46. Dmitry Simashev, Yaroslavl Arizona LD 18 RUS
47. Yaroslav Askarov (50), Milwaukee Nashville G 21 RUS
48. Jagger Firkus, Moose Jaw Seattle RW 19 CAN
49. William Eklund  San Jose LW 21 SWE
50. Matt Coronato, Calgary (AHL) Calgary RW 21 USA