Throughout the first month of the season, rookie phenom Connor Bedard has enjoyed tremendous success both on the ice and with the media. His recent tear has the 18-year-old up to nine goals on the year, and seemingly countless media personalities, players, coaches, and other experts have expressed just how impressed they are with his spectacular style of play and production.
On Wednesday night, Bedard received the highest praise a player could possibly get – the Wayne Gretzky seal of approval. The greatest player in the history of the game discussed the young talent on NHL on TNT, and it’s safe to say he was impressed:
“He’s been everything that everybody thought he was going to be, and he might even be better than we thought.”– Wayne Gretzky
For Bedard to be “even better than we thought” is a pretty high bar. He’s a skater who, at just 13 years old, was proclaimed to be “the future of hockey”. As the first-overall pick of this year’s draft and the most highly anticipated prospect since Connor McDavid, the weight of the hockey world has been placed on his shoulders. He’s taken that burden and ran (skated?) with it, impressing nearly everyone around the league.
The word “everyone” now includes even the head coaches of the Blackhawks’ opponents, apparently. Last Thursday, Bedard had the best game of his young career in Tampa Bay, notching four points with two goals. One week later, the Lightning and head coach Jon Cooper were in Chicago for a rematch, and the terrific championship-winning coach spoke on Bedard.
“I didn’t get to see him very long, and every time I did see him he was lining up at center ice for a puck drop because he had either scored or had an assist. You can tell he’s extremely gifted. I love watching guys like that – they’re special players in the league and he’s got some special gifts. I’m sure he’ll be the first one to tell you he’s got a long way to go in this league. For me, you can’t give NHL players time and space, especially guys that have those offensive gifts. We gave that to Connor in the last game and he burned us. That’s a sign of a lot of hope for the [Blackhawks] franchise because when you start putting that word ‘special’ – I’m not saying that now, but he’s well on his way to doing that with the gifts he has.”– Head Coach Jon Cooper
Cooper’s insightful analysis is right on the money. Sure, Bedard has a lot of room to improve. But he’s a “special” player, and his skills can be seen on the ice already.
As Bedard continues to improve, he’ll keep catching the eyes of the game’s biggest legends. He’s already comfortable in the spotlight, but the lights will only continue to get brighter the more talented he gets. Will an 18-year-old kid be able to handle the weight of the hockey world on his shoulders?