It’s all on now. Connor Bedard signed his entry-level deal with the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday, ringing in his 18th birthday with style. Before he can even step foot on the ice, a goal prediction has been set by FanDuel Canada:
Connor Bedard's goal total for his rookie season is set at 32.5 on @FanDuelCanada. 🚨
How many goals will he score this year? 🥅 pic.twitter.com/Lb0tnLhN6C
— TSN EDGE (@TSN_Edge) July 17, 2023
The fact that the line is set at 32.5 is significant. After all, Bedard tallied 12 goals in his first season of the Western Hockey League as a 15-year-old. How many games did it take him? 15. This was also in the midst of the Covid shortened year where he couldn’t get in the games as a normal season would allow.
The next season? 51 goals in 62 games and 100 points. Astute Blackhawks fans know he potted 71 goals with 143 points in just 57 games.
So 32.5? Seems reasonable. But what do comparables say?
A Look Back At Crosby, McDavid, and Matthews
Of the last ten drafts, the two players who are the best measuring sticks are Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews. Since Bedard was granted exceptional status back in 2020, the only reasonable players to compare him against are those who took the league by storm.
Sidney Crosby was the first real generational player the NHL had seen in some time. He promptly put up 39 goals and 102 points in 81 games. Yes, it was a different league but he was also on a team very similar in structure to what Bedard will have. That Pittsburgh club was veteran laden, and starting to bring in younger members of the eventual core who would be ready. Evgeni Malkin was a year away.
How about McDavid? In his rookie year, he potted 15 goals and finished with 32 points in 45 games. But–he missed 37 games due to a shoulder injury that had all of Edmonton holding its collective breath. But if stretched out to a full season, McDavid was good for 27.3 goals and 58 points. McDavid was considered generational and the injury was taken into account. His second season saw 30 goals and 100 points.
Disaster averted, especially in a hockey town that was used to its first overall picks not hitting as expected.
Finally, Matthews. In a full first season, Matthews buried 40 goals and 69 points. To hell with a point-per-game pace. 40 goals is incredible for a rookie setting foot into the league. He accounted for 16% of Toronto’s goals that season, and had cemented himself with William Nylander and Mitch Marner as the new young core for the Maple Leafs.
Bedard has Recent History on His Side
The foolish notion that Bedard would either hold out with Chicago or refuse to sign bordered on humorous. Anyone who has spent more than five minutes listening to the 18-year-old talk knows it wouldn’t have been his style. The hockey prodigy appears to be as modest as they come.
But when it comes to predictions, he’s also one to not only hit that mark, but likely surpass it. This from TSN’s Craig Button, who spoke of Bedard not setting the bar low via NHL.com’s Adam Kimelman’s podcast:
— Adam Kimelman (@NHLAdamK) July 17, 2023
“Having watched Connor for as long as I have now, I’d say don’t set the bar too low. He sets the bar high. He’s always been able to not only reach that bar, but to exceed that bar. I think that’s part of the brilliance of Connor. Whether he was fifteen going into the WHL bubble, whether he was going to the U18 in Dallas, Texas. The World Juniors, where the last player his age to dominate a World Junior tournament like he did like this last tourney was Wayne Gretzky in 1978.”
Button goes onto call him “adaptive” and cites it as another reason why success will follow Bedard to Chicago. One other note: Bedard has a contract chock full of incentives to the tune of $3.5 million. Puckpedia outlined the bonus incentives which only sets more goals for Bedard, which as Button astutely pointed out, he’ll likely scale.
So in short, is 32.5 reasonable as an over/under?
If history teaches us anything about Bedard, it might be too low.