On June 28, the Chicago Blackhawks made a move that could potentially revitalize their franchise, by choosing Connor Bedard as the first pick in the NHL Draft. The team is optimistic that this talented 17-year-old center, hailing from Canada, can lead them back to the glory days of Stanley Cup contention.
Bedard, renowned for his ingenious passes and deadly wrist shot, is set to become an integral part of the Blackhawks’ reconstruction plan. This plan follows three consecutive seasons of disappointment, prompting the team to invest in their future and enticing Blackhawks merch aficionados with the promise of a new era.
When asked about his feelings on being drafted by the Blackhawks, a six-time championship team, Bedard expressed his excitement, “It’s almost beyond words,” he said. “To have grown up watching a team as dominant as the Blackhawks, and now to be wearing their jersey myself, it’s simply fantastic. I am thrilled and eager to start.”
Bedard is set to make his professional debut on October 10, when the Blackhawks go head-to-head with Sidney Crosby and the Penguins in Pittsburgh. “It’s going to be an amazing experience,” Bedard admitted. “Crosby was my childhood idol. It’s like a dream come true.”
The Blackhawks—eager to rekindle the spirit of 2007 when they selected Patrick Kane as their first pick, who led them to three Stanley Cups—had no doubt that Bedard was their primary choice. Labeled as the most promising prospect since Connor McDavid in 2015, Bedard already boasts two world junior championship gold medals. His phenomenal performance at the 2023 championship, where he led in goals (9), assists (14), and points (23), earned him the title of the most valuable player.
Bedard also made a significant impact in the Western Hockey League with the Regina Pats, scoring a colossal 71 goals during the 2022-23 season. This was the highest by a WHL player in 24 years, and his 143 points were the league’s highest single-season total in 27 years.
The Blackhawks, despite their Stanley Cup victories in 2010, 2013, and 2015, have been struggling in recent years. The team is now committed to rebuilding, focusing on nurturing young talent. This approach received a significant boost when they won the NHL draft lottery in May, only 10 weeks after trading Kane, marking the conclusion of a golden era.
The NHL Draft’s second pick was a surprise to some, including Leo Carlsson, when the Anaheim Ducks chose him. “I was a little taken aback, but feel incredibly blessed,” Carlsson commented, grinning.
The Columbus Blue Jackets then seized the opportunity to draft Adam Fantilli from the University of Michigan. The top five picks were rounded out with the San Jose Sharks choosing center Will Smith, and the Montreal Canadiens selecting defenseman David Reinbacher. The Draft, held over two days, took place in Nashville.