by Warren Rappleyea
Mathis Bédard has grown more and more comfortable with each game on the Ottawa Junior Senators’ blue line and his play has warranted increased ice time.
The 5-11, 174-pounder agreed to come to Ottawa last spring following a productive season with the Ste-Foy Dynamiques of the Québec Collegiate Hockey League. It’s been a learning experience for Bédard, who is rounding out the defensive aspects of his game, while also refining his English-language skills.
“It’s a much faster pace here than I was used to,” Bédard explained. “I’m a mobile, offensive defenseman, but it’s also important to be sound defensively. At first, I was getting a few minutes of ice time per game, and making a lot of turnovers because I always wanted to skate up with the puck. I had to find a balance and show the coaches that I could be more responsible; then my ice time started going up a little every game.”
As a result, Bédard is a key part of an Ottawa defense that boasts the lowest goals against in the Central Canada Hockey League (CCHL). As a result, the Junior Sens own the best record in the CCHL at 26-5-2 and one shootout loss.
He’s also aiding the offense with a goal and 13 assists to his credit in 30 matches. The 19-year-old has proven to be a strong, fast skater, who sees the ice exceptionally well. His ability to beat the first man and consistently find teammates with breakout passes has helped spark the Junior Sens attack, which has produced 122 goals.
A year ago, the righty-shooting blue-liner didn’t know very much about the team he would soon join. That all changed after Ottawa General Manager Jamie Mayo reached out to chat with Bédard. Those conversations resulted in an invitation to practice with the Junior Senators and eventually a spot on the team.
“Coming into our league there was a big adjustment to the way the game is played and the structure and detail we play with here,” Coach Kyle Makaric said. “It took Mathis some time to get acclimated to how we want to play, but he has a great attitude. He’s very coachable and he asked all the right questions.”
Although he realized it would not be easy, Bédard knew Ottawa was the place for him. “The team has a great reputation and a winning tradition,” the youngster said. “It’s the kind of team players want to join.”
Early in the season Bédard spent countless hours with the coaching staff reviewing video and worked hard during—and after—practice sessions, earning a spot as a top-four defender, along with his partner Sam Grabner.
Makaric was impressed. The coach explained, “The improvement and growth in his game has come mainly because Mathis wants to get better. He basically put himself in a position to learn and have an incredible ability to play at our pace. He’s been awesome for the last month or so—with and without the puck.”
With 21 games remaining in the season, there is plenty of optimism that Bedard will continue to improve.
“Mathis took a big leap to make an impact and we’re hoping he’s got another step coming,” Makaric added. “We’re really excited to see what he can do for us down the stretch. He’s an exciting player to watch.”