Less than 24 hours after the NHL Draft Lottery aired and it was announced that the Blackhawks had earned the first overall pick, their presumptive draft choice was already changing the city of Chicago.
Connor Bedard, who is already all but on the team despite the draft being a month and a half away, is being welcomed with profound excitement by Chicago sports fans. That excitement is justified – he’s potentially the greatest prospect of all time at 17 years old, surpassing the likes of Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid who came before him. The thrill when the news broke could be seen at watch parties in the Chicago area, and fans took to social media to show their excitement.
That enthusiasm could also be felt on the financial side for the Blackhawks. The team told ESPN Tuesday morning that they had made $5.2 million in revenue from season tickets less than 12 hours after the news broke. The team said their sales staff hasn’t even made any outgoing calls yet, just taking incoming ones.
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The 17-year-old is facing plenty of pressure, and the sheer volume of season tickets as a result of the Lottery only adds to that burden. He’s expected to quickly turn this franchise around, speeding up the rebuilding process and propelling the young squad back into contention as early as next season.
The Next Kaner?
Perhaps some of that pressure comes from the fact that the only other time Chicago has held the number one pick, it’s safe to say it turned out pretty well. Of course, that selection was used on Patrick Kane, who has a case to be the greatest Blackhawk of all time. Kane was asked back in January for his thoughts on Bedard, well before he knew Bedard would be his successor as the “face of Chicago hockey”.
“I think everyone’s kind of wondering how is he going to do at the next level, how’s he going to be. From what I saw, I think it’s all right there, he’s going to be special.”
Kane went on to depict a story from a BioSteel camp where he made McDavid look silly on a 2-on-1 chance, stating that one of his best traits is that he can move so well laterally. Bedard had proven that he could play with the best hockey players in the world shortly after his 17th birthday.
Connor Bedard has shown time and time again that he can rise to the occasion, playing with groups that should be beyond his skill level and experience. As he gears up to get drafted and play for the Blackhawks in their upcoming season, he faces his biggest task yet. After all, he’s carrying the expectations of Patrick Kane, new season ticket holders, and the city of Chicago on his back.