PITTSBURGH — If all goes as many expect, Tuesday was the start of something special for the Blackhawks and Connor Bedard.
The top overall pick in this June’s draft made his NHL debut in front of a national television audience against the Penguins at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh. The spotlight of the league was on Bedard, who is one of the most heralded prospects over the past decade in the NHL.
Over the course of Tuesday, there were a few memorable moments for the center as he got his first taste of big-time professional hockey.
Bedard had the spotlight on him the entire day, from his post-morning skate news conference that was jammed with Chicago, Pittsburgh, and national media in a hallway at PPG Paints Arena.
The rookie then arrived with the rest of the team in a full suit later in the day as he got ready for his first NHL game.
There was one minor hiccup for Bedard when he took the ice for the pregame warm-up moments before the game.
As he got ready to leave the tunnel, ESPN broadcast cameras caught the center forgetting his stick as he was about ready to go out. Luckily, he realized the error just in time, grabbing his stick from the equipment room and then making his way onto the ice.
Veteran teammates then allowed Bedard and fellow rookie Kevin Korchinski, who was the Blackhawks’ top pick in 2022, to skate around under the spotlights first before the rest of the team joined in.
Bedard had the opportunity to take the season-opening faceoff with his idol Sidney Crosby across the way.
“Welcome back for another season,” said referee Kelly Sutherland to both players. “Connor, welcome to the NHL, man.”
“Thank you,” replied Bedard as the puck dropped and a career began.
In his first NHL regular season game, Bedard saw 21:29 of ice time on 21 shifts, had five shots on goal on the top line next to Taylor Hall and Ryan Donato.
With 4:23 to go in the second period, the rookie got on the scoresheet for the first time in the NHL, providing the secondary assist on Donato’s first goal with the Blackhawks.
Bedard’s efforts helped the Blackhawks to a 4-2 victory, with the team getting three third period goals to erase a 2-1 deficit after 40 minutes. Cole Guttman and Jason Dickinson got scores to give the visitors the advantage before Nick Foligno added an empty-netter to finish off the victory.
It’s the first opening night win for the Blackhawks since they beat the Senators in overtime in Ottawa on October 4, 2018, ending a four-year opener losing streak.