PITTSBURGH — This is a day that some people have been dreaming about since the Blackhawks made the decision to do a full rebuild in March 2022.
Connor Bedard is that good of a prospect, and thanks to circumstances inside and outside of their control, he’s on Chicago’s NHL team and ready to start a new chapter of the franchise.
That begins on Tuesday when the team takes the ice for the first of 82 games of the 2023-2024 campaign against the Penguins in Pittsburgh at PPG Paints Arena at 7 p.m. Central Time. It’s the regular season debut of the most heralded young talent in the game in a decade.
“I’m so excited,” said Bedard ahead of his debut on Monday. “It’s hard to kinda think about and realize that it’s true, but it’s really exciting.”
Expect the center to see plenty of action as he’s expected to be on the team’s top line with wingers Taylor Hall and Ryan Donato. It’s one of the most anticipated debuts for the Blackhawks since Patrick Kane (Oct. 4, 2007 at Wild) and Jonathan Toews (Oct. 10, 2007 vs. Sharks) with national attention on the meeting in Pittsburgh.
Bedard’s debut has put this game between two teams that missed the playoffs last year on the national ESPN stage. Of course, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NHL Draft is the primary reason, as the 18-year-old phenom gets his taste of NHL regular season hockey.
“Like I said before, you don’t know what to expect, but over the summer, I feel like as hard as I possibly could to prepare myself,” said Bedard of being ready for his debut. “For me, it’s just kinda letting instincts take over and really enjoying it.”
Making the moment even more special is the fact that it comes against one of his childhood hockey idols, Penguins center Sidney Crosby, who himself was a first overall pick in 2005.
“Obviously growing up he was my favorite player, and now getting that opportunity to start off is pretty sweet,” said Bedard of facing Crosby.
Fans hoping to see the center’s home regular season debut will have to wait a bit as the Blackhawks have their first five games away from home. They’ll face the Bruins on Wednesday and the Canadiens on Saturday before a trip to Toronto to face the Maple Leafs on Monday and the Avalanche in Denver on October 19.
Finally, Bedard makes his home debut on October 21 against the reigning Stanley Cup champion Golden Knights. That will be another special moment for a special player, who the Blackhawks are hoping will do something special in a new era of the franchise.