By now, it’s a foregone conclusion as to who the Chicago Blackhawks will take with the first pick of the 2023 NHL Draft. On the stage in Nashville, it will be Connor Bedard walking across to shake hands with the front office and coaches.
His impact statistically aside, Bedard brings more to the table than just the eye-popping numbers. It’s simlar to when Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews were making their way to the NHL. There was more there than just the numbers.
But for the sake of argument, Bedard’s 71 goals and 143 points in 57 games were unlike many have seen since McDavid. His career numbers of 122 goals in 119 career regular season games is mind boggling in the most positive way. 10 goals in the WHL playoffs in seven games and then his excellent play internationally with 23 points and nine goals in seven games.
Against the hand picked world’s best. The excitement is fair. Caution should still be practiced, but it will certainly be one way to move up that rebuild timeline a bit if things work out as expected.
A Work Ethic and Love for Hockey
An interview with his parents on from Canada’s TSN goes into detail about how Bedard honed his shot. Practice, practice, and more practice. But just an unwavering desire to play hockey. The stories range from him practicing his shooting and his stickhandling daily.
Coincidentally, it was a wrist injury he suffered while playing in a tournament in–you guessed it–Chicago, that added to the lore of his work ethic. The injury, according to Bedard’s father Tom, was near the growth plate so they had to be careful with it. Bedard listened, and refused to use his right hand for practicing his shooting and stickhandling.
Instead, he devoted it all to the left side. This strengthened the non-dominant side and as the by product, now he returned to the game stronger than ever.
“His shot jumped another level that year,” Tom Bedard told TSN. “And that was right after he healed and did all that work with one hand.”
A fanbase that values the players who live and die for Chicago’s teams won’t be able to get enough of this. It will certainly be on display, but beyond that, it’s been over a half decade since the Blackhawks really had the city’s full attention. It wasn’t always the stars either. For every Michael Jordan, there were the loud cheers for the defensive efforts of Randy Brown. On the ice, Blackhawks fans appreciated the Niklas Hjalmarsson shot blocks in front of pucks zipping at the net–just as much if not more than the Patrick Kane highlight goals. It wasn’t always mutally exclusive, either. Jonathan Toews always seemed to do it, whether on or off the ice. The work ethic and the love of the sport blended often if not always.
Bedard seems cut of the same cloth and Chicagoans will roar their approval.
Humility in Spite of His Skill and Standing in the World
It was during the post-game interview after Team Canada won the Gold Medal in the 2023 World Juniors that Bedard made headlines for his reaction.
Chicago fans reveled and adored Jonathan Toews’s moniker as Captain Serious. All business on the ice regardless of the accolades. Dialed in without as much as a smirk.
It was Bedard’s humility that stood out when asked about his personal achievements in the tournament minutes after the Canadians clinched gold.
“I don’t want to talk about myself,” Bedard said while shaking his head. “We’re not talking about me. We just won the biggest tournament in the world and I love this group. I love this country and this city right here has been unbelievable.”
His numbers of course were staggering. Some might have chosen to to acknowedge it but Bedard cut the full question off an deferred to the team.
Personal accolades aside, Bedard’s focus is team first. For a team rebuilding and needing to find the right players to eventually return to the levels Chicago once were accustomed to, Bedard could be a heck of a building block to start with.