In a move expected by approximately everyone with a functioning brain, the Chicago Blackhawks selected Regina Pats forward Connor Bedard with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NHL Draft.
Chicago’s arrival at the No. 1 pick was confirmed at the draft lottery in May, but Bedard’s destiny as the first player off the board has been projected for years. For the last three hockey seasons, he’s been torching the WHL, a league that Bedard was granted a special exemption to play in at the age of 15 due to his prodigy-like hockey skills. There are innumerable ways to express how dominant Bedard was in his career. Here’s one of those ways:
Connor Bedard’s WHL career has ended (141 GP)
• 145 goals
• 291 points
For his age 15-17 seasons.
— /Cam Robinson/ (@Hockey_Robinson) April 11, 2023
In Bedard’s final WHL season, he led the league in goals (71), assists (72) and points (143) despite missing a chunk of games while skating for Team Canada in the World Juniors.
Oh, yeah, he also led Team Canada in just about every relevant statistical category while guiding that team to the gold medal, too. For more explanation on how much Bedard pulled away from his peers during his pre-professional career, check out this excerpt from the article linked below:
He averaged exactly one goal per game (134 goals in 134 GP), which puts him fourth overall, just ahead of Joe Sakic. The three players ranked in front of him all played between 1981 and 1984.
His 1.022 assists per game ranks 41st, with the only other player born within a decade of him in the entire top 50 being Mat Barzal (and Barzal’s number is so high thanks in part to an insane season the year after he was drafted by the Islanders, when he was playing in the WHL as a 19-year-old).
His 2.022 points per game is 10th, and you have to go all the way down to No. 50 on the list before you find another player that wasn’t playing in the 1980s or 90s (current Florida Panther Aleksi Heponiemi had two really good seasons from 2016-18).
It is nearly impossible to write about Bedard without venturing into superlatives that will border on hyperbole but that’s also indicative of just how good Bedard is as a prospect. The numbers seem too high to be true, the accomplishments too lofty to be real – but they’re all accurate.
And now he’s a member of the Blackhawks, with a contract likely to follow soon for a teenager who will not turn 18 years old until July 17. Despite his youth, though, Bedard appears to be every bit the type of talent upon which the foundation of a successful NHL franchise can be built.
Happy Connor Bedard Day to all who celebrate.
PS. Bedard is already wearing No. 98, so congrats to everyone who pre-ordered those jerseys – you don’t have to make a return.