Written By: Emma Brannare
Edited By: Sarah Wingo
Generational talent, Connor Bedard, has paved his path to be the future of hockey. The Canadian junior ice hockey center and captain of the Western Hockey League’s (WHL) Regina Pats was picked first overall by the Pats, in the 2020 WHL Draft.
Bedard played for Canada’s National Men’s Under-18 Team and won gold in the IIHF World U18 Championship where he tied for second in tournament points and began his rise to fame. Bedard has tried to keep the normalcy of his life, but at his level of athleticism, his life is far from it.
At 15, Bedard applied for exceptional player status, and once eligible, he was called up as the first 15-year-old to play for the WHL. Throughout his time with the league, Berdard was compared to the greats and was the second 16-year-old Canadian to score three or more goals in a single game after Wayne Gretsky’s hat trick in a 9-3 victory in 1977.
Adam Hermon of The Athletic compared Bedard’s skillset to the level of Conor McDavid, Sidney Crosby, and Alex Ovechkin. McDavid and Bedard are two of eight players to be given exceptional player status in CHL history. Now, Bedard will be joining McDavid in the league as a fellow first overall pick.
In an interview with ESPN reporter, Emily Kaplan, Bedard stated "There's a bit of buzz, and for me, it's kind of crazy to see some of the things and people I've been compared to."It's a lot different getting recognized out and about. It's something I'm getting used to. It's super cool feeling the support. But you know ... I'm still a kid."
On May 8, the Chicago Blackhawks won the NHL Draft Lottery and drafted Bedard. The last time the Blackhawks selected first-overall was back in 2007 when they took superstar winger Patrick Kane. Recently trading Kane to the Rangers, they were in need of an ‘exceptional player.’ Chicago had the third-best odds to win this year's first overall pick at 11.5%.
Bedard continues to learn from the players he will soon be playing against. He attempts to replicate Toronto Maple Leaf’s Auston Matthews and his intense shot, the skating skills of Edmonton Oilers player Connor Mcdavid, the passing skills of New York Rangers’ Patrick Kane, and the puck protection of his idol, The Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby.
Other players in the mix behind Bedard include U.S. Under-18 National Team Development Program center Will Smith, a Massachusetts native committed to Boston College, Swedish elite two-way player and center Leo Carlsson, and Russian winger Matvei Michkov, a dynamic goal scorer whose contract with the Kontinental Hockey League will prevent him from playing in the NHL until the 2026-27 season.
The game has changed since McDavid, Matthews, and Kane were drafted into the NHL and we can expect it to do the same with Bedard in the mix. The stickhandling in the league is at an all-time high and only continues to get better with each year’s draft. The future is unpredictable for most NHL teams, but if the Blackhawks follow through with drafting Bedard, they will have a bright season ahead.