CHICAGO — There have been few draft picks in the history of Chicago sports that have generated this much attention before they were even selected.
Perhaps that’s because it’s rare that a team in the city has a prospect that so many have been discussing for so long. After all, the likely top selection in the NHL Draft has been on the minds of Blackhawks’ fans for over a year since the team announced a full rebuild.
Thanks to a stripped-down roster that shed NHL-level assets for draft capital, a bad 2022-2023 season, and some good old-fashioned luck, Connor Bedard (probably) is going to be a member of the Blackhawks.
All that’s left is the selection when they come on the clock with the first overall pick at the opening night of the 2023 NHL Draft at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.
So who is this player that so many in Chicago had hoped would join the city’s NHL team? Here’s a quick look at his path from Western Canada to the “Windy City.”
Bedard was born on July 17, 2005 in Vancouver to parents Tom and Melanie – and his family has a history with hockey and the Blackhawks.
Defenseman James Bedard, Connor’s great-great uncle, played 22 games for the team from 1949 through 1951 in a career that was spent primarily in the Western Hockey League.
In his early years, Bedard started to get noticed while playing with the North Vancouver Storm of the Pacific Coast Bantam Hockey League and West Vancouver Academy Prep of the Canadian Sport School Hockey League.
During the 2018-2019 season with that school’s Under-15 team, according to Elite Prospects, Bedard had 64 goals and 24 assists in 30 games. With the West Vancouver Academy Prep’s Under-18 team the next year, he had 43 goals and 41 assists in 36 games.
Due to his performance at that level, Bedard was granted “exceptional” status by Hockey Canada, allowing him to enter the Western Hockey League at 15 in March 2020. The Regina Pats selected him first overall in the Bantam Draft that year.
Bedard’s reputation only grew over the course of his three years with the WHL as he quickly ascended to the top of the list of prospects in all of hockey.
The center played 134 games with the Pats, scoring 134 goals with 137 assists in 134 games during that time. That included an incredible 2022-2023 season where Bedard had 71 goals and 72 assists in just 57 games.
At the same time, Bedard was chosen four times teams to represent Canada in a few junior World Championship events.
In 2021, he helped his country to the gold medal in the Under-18 World Championships that were held in the United States and then played for that squad again in 2022. In 11 games over both years, Bedard had 13 goals and eight assists.
In August 2022, Bedard joined the main Team Canada junior team for the World Championships in Edmonton, scoring four goals along with four assists in seven games. He increased his production in the 2023 tournament, scoring nine goals with 14 assists in the same amount of contests to help his country to a second-straight title.
Now Bedard is in a position to be just the second player ever selected No. 1 overall by the Blackhawks, joining Patrick Kane, who was taken at that spot in 2007.
Kane went on to help the team to three Stanley Cup titles while making nine All-Star appearances with a Hart Trophy win in 2016. He was traded this past March, and now Bedard has the chance to step in and be one of the faces of a new era of Blackhawks’ hockey.