As most NHL teams have hit the 50-game mark, some organizations that are on the lower side of the standings are starting to focus on the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. The 2023 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game took place last week and saw the top 42 Canadian prospects all on the ice at the same time.
One of the standouts from the game was Carberry's Carson Bjarnason, who played 31 minutes for Team Red and stopped 16 of the 17 shots he faced.
"It was awesome. It was a neat experience," says the Brandon Wheat Kings goaltender. "It's an eye-opener to how strong our class really is. Obviously, we have a good top five picks coming out of the Western Hockey League but it's an eye opener to how good the other leagues are and how skilled the players are."
Bjarnason had the opportunity to play alongside and share a locker room with the all-time leading-scorer in Canadian World Juniors history, Connor Bedard. Bedard is projected to be the top pick in the upcoming NHL draft, as he has 85 points in just 34 games for the Regina Pats.
"It was pretty cool. He's a pretty down-to-earth guy, and he treats everybody normal. He expects the same in return," Bjarnason explains. "He's a humble kid, and obviously, a great talent."
The 17-year-old is one of just four netminders to attend the top prospects game and is ranked as the number one goalie prospect in North America on NHL.com. Bjarnason places fourth in the WHL in total saves with 1002 and is tied for second in the league in shutouts with three.
With the draft on the horizon, Bjarnason says he's started having conversations with some NHL teams. He adds it's been a good way to let teams know who he is off the ice.
"For me, it's an opportunity to showcase who I am as a person and not so much the hockey side of things. That's the main thing they're interested in, but getting to that pro level, teams definitely care a lot more about who you are and how you're going to be in the dressing room," Bjarnason continues. "It's a nice opportunity to broadcast myself as a person, not just as a player."
The Carberry native notes the season has been flying by, and events like this can be over in a heartbeat.
"If anybody I know, or anybody that reads this, ever gets the opportunity to play in (the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game), enjoy it. It was over in the blink of an eye, and you always think it's going to last longer," says Bjarnason. "So, soak it all in, have fun with the media, and enjoy everything that comes with it."
Bjarnason is now back in Brandon as he tries to help the Wheat Kings make a playoff push in these final two months of the season. He and the Wheat Kings will be back on home ice Friday as they welcome the Winnipeg Ice.