The Connor Bedard era has begun in Chicago.
After months of speculation, the Blackhawks selected Canadian center Connor Bedard of the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League as the first pick in the NHL Draft.
Bedard had long been the top prospect of this year’s draft class.
He was honored as the International Ice Hockey Federation’s men’s player of the year after representatives from 22 countries decided he was the best young prospect in the world.
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The Blackhawks hadn’t taken first overall since 2007, when they selected future Hall of Famer Patrick Kane, who played 16 years in Chicago and won three Stanley Cups.
«We’ll let him figure it out,» general manager Kyle Davidson told ESPN after making the pick official. «He’s a very special player, a very special person. We’ll let him determine how special the first season is.»
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Bedard, just 17, has turned heads after recording 143 points in 57 CHL regular-season games with the Patriots during the 2022-23 season. Bedard led the league in points, finished first in goals and tied for first in assists on his way to being named WHL Player of the Year and CHL Player of the Year, Top Prospect and Top Scorer, the first player to do so .
Bedard has also been a key member of Team Canada, helping his country win gold at the 2023 IIHF Junior World Championship. He led the tournament with nine goals and 14 assists.
He may be just 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds, but three seasons in the WHL produced 134 goals and 137 assists for 271 points.
Bedard is expected to sit squarely on the Blackhawks’ depth chart, which is starting to improve after Davidson made a move with the Boston Bruins to acquire Taylor Hall as a provisional winger to help upgrade forwards around Bedard.
Expectations are high, but Bedard has shown his ability to rise to the occasion even at such a young age. The NHL will be its toughest competition to date, and it will likely get its first taste of the league when it faces the Pittsburgh Penguins and their idol, Sidney Crosby, on Oct. 10 in the opener of the 2023-24 NHL season. .
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With Bedard officially in a Blackhawks sweater, Chicago can focus on its upcoming draft picks, which include the 19th overall pick in the first round.