It’s all but official – Connor Bedard will soon be a Blackhawk.
Monday night, the city of Chicago collectively held its breath as the deputy commissioner flipped 16 cards representing the 16 teams in the lottery, and things couldn’t have gone better for the Blackhawks, as they won the lottery and will select first overall. While Bedard will have to wait until Wednesday, June 28 to hear his name called, he can practically start attending Blackhawks offseason meetings.
While a generational talent like Connor Bedard can ignite optimism from fans, players, and even the front office, it’s important not to put too much pressure on the 17-year-old too early. After all, this team isn’t ready to compete this upcoming season. They have one of the best prospect pools in the NHL, but that group is young and doesn’t have enough experience to make them a truly competitive team. Instead, it’s important to let Bedard fully develop first, not relying on a player that can’t even vote in his home country to save their entire franchise. But what can we expect from him in year one?
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When it comes to precedents for fans to compare Bedard to, perhaps the closest Blackhawk would be Patrick Kane. Kaner was the only other first-overall pick in the team’s history, and while he was easily number one, he wasn’t even on the level that Bedard is at right now. After being drafted in 2007, Kane signed his entry-level contract in July and made his debut at the start of the season in October. He went on to have a tremendous season, playing all 82 games. He scored 21 goals and 51 assists for a total of 72 points en route to the Calder Memorial Trophy.
Should we expect 72 points and a Calder Memorial Trophy from Bedard in year one? It’s not out of the question. After all, he’s potentially the most highly touted prospect ever, with some praising him as better coming out than Sidney Crosby or Connor McDavid in their draft years. He’s more polished than Kane was in 2007. However, a rookie season like Kane’s is a bit of an anomaly. The Blackhawks’ 2023 first-overall pick will face expectations to beat those numbers, but if he doesn’t quite meet them, fans shouldn’t be too quick to harshly criticize him.
Instead of looking for Bedard to blow fans away in terms of stats, he should do so by improving this year and laying the groundwork for his time in Chicago. This season can be measured by how well he’s able to transition his game and how comfortable he looks on the NHL ice. Additionally, he’ll be tested this year in his leadership abilities. The brass in Chicago will undoubtedly be looking at how he takes control of a locker room, and this is the roster to do it with. Last year’s Blackhawks roster didn’t look too different from that of the Rockford IceHogs, and as such, Bedard has the opportunity to come in and be an emotional leader for the team, even at 17 years old.