Photo Credit: Property of the Western Hockey League

WHL has first player granted ‘exceptional status’

History was made earlier this week as for the first time in its history, the Western Hockey League has had a player granted exceptional status. 15-year-old forward Connor Bedard, a British Columbia product, received the designation from Hockey Canada.

What does exceptional status mean? Well, rather than being limited to a certain number of games as a 15-year-old Bedard is able to become a full-time WHLer next season.

From the WHL’s release:

Exceptional player status is granted to a player whose qualities not only on the ice, but as a person, deem the player deserving of the rare privilege of participating in the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) at an early age. Consideration of such status is only granted to a player whose ongoing development is more likely to be significantly enhanced by playing in the CHL as a 15-year-old than by participating in his designated age division next season.

Historically, it’s incredibly difficult to get this designation – Matthew Savoie wasn’t granted that status and bounced between the WHL’s Winnipeg ICE and the Rink Hockey Academy this season.

Just six previous players were granted exceptional status, which should speak to the company Bedard may be able to keep:

  • 2005: John Tavares (OHL)
  • 2011: Aaron Ekblad (OHL)
  • 2012: Connor McDavid (OHL)
  • 2013: Sean Day (OHL)
  • 2015: Joe Veleno (QMJHL)
  • 2019: Shane Wright (OHL)

Tavares, Ekblad and McDavid dominated junior. Veleno was a very good junior. Day was a pretty good junior player. Wright is off to an excellent start. The standard of exceptional player status is pretty dang high.

The expectation is that Bedard will go first overall in the upcoming WHL Bantam Draft. The Regina Pats hold the first overall selection.