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Skills coach Jon Calvano shares when he realized Connor Bedard was special

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Connor Bedard has been one of the most highly-touted prospects we can remember, and his performance at the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship for Team Canada showed the world just how special this kid really is.

Local Vancouver hockey coach Jon Calvano, who has worked with Bedard since he was 5 years old, obviously saw the unique traits that makes him special much sooner than everyone else, mainly because of his demeanor off the ice at a young age.

"He had special attributes as a young kid," Calvano said on the latest edition of the Blackhawks Talk Podcast. "Most kids would ... run around and be a 5, 6, 7, 8-year old; Connor was more focused than most, if not all of them."

Bedard's on-ice performance matched up with what Calvano was seeing off of it. Fast forward to when Bedard was 10 years old, and he was named MVP of the Brick Tournament in Toronto, which is a tournament many NHL players have participated in.

"I believe he's the only kid at the Brick to be the MVP of the tournament with a team not in the finals," Calvano said.

Bedard started catching more eyes after that. During the summer that year, Calvano invited Bedard to skate with the players he was working with, which included Mathew Barzal, Brendan Gallagher, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Morgan Rielly. 

"He just jumped into the drills," Calvano said. "There was no oddness of anybody, it was just, 'Okay, I'm a hockey player, and I'm out here and I'm going to jump in and I'm going to make a pass to Ryan.' And I just sat back and realized, 'That's pretty odd for a 10-year-old not to be phased by an NHL player.'

"And the rest is obviously history, because that mindset of his just never changed. He's not a fanboy. He walks in, sits in the room at a young age, young kid, got dressed, did his thing, jumped on the ice, did his thing, got off the ice and left. Like, no pictures, no autographs, I'm a hockey player like you. That mindset he had from a young age has helped him throughout his career thus far."

Calvano remembers a particular session where Bedard was impressing the NHL players.

"We were doing some obstacles and different training with slipping pucks through apparatuses," Calvano said. "A lot of the pro guys are stuck in their way as far as how they're going to train and what their abilities are and what they like and don't like, and I was trying to open their mind up and explain to the guys that this is what we're going to do and they all looked at me like I had three heads on.

"And I was like, 'Connor, come here.' And Connor, a little kid, skated to the front of the line, 'You know this drill, you know this circuit, go do it.' And he did it, and all the guys were looking at him like, 'How old is this kid?' They kind of saw that no fear or the big stage even at 10 or being on the ice with NHL guys didn't phase him."

You can listen to the full interview below:

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