May 28, 2024
Chicago Blackhawks

NHL Draft: Blackhawks take Bedard with No. 1 pick: What kind of a player are they getting?

FILE - NHL draft prospect Connor Bedard speaks to the media prior to Game 2 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals between the Florida Panthers and the Vegas Golden Knights, June 5, 2023, in Las Vegas. Bedard, from British Columbia, is anticipated to be selected by the Chicago Blackhawks with the No. 1 pick in the NHL draft Wednesday, June 28, 2023. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr, File)

Every draft day is special for fans of the four major American sports.

Fresh blood always seems to equal fresh hope and optimism.

But for anyone associated with the Chicago Blackhawks, the energy surrounding this year’s NHL draft has been crackling ever since they won the right to select Connor Bedard.

After all, it’s not every day a franchise knows beyond a shadow of a doubt it is about to take a seismic leap forward.

That leap became official when Hawks GM Kyle Davidson stepped to the mic at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday and announced his team was in fact selecting Bedard with the No. 1 overall pick.

For the casual fan who may not understand what kind of player is coming to Chicago, we invite you to think big.

As in Michael Jordan big. Walter Payton and Gale Sayers big. Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull big. That’s the kind of generational talent the Hawks just added.

“His release,” the Avalanche’s Nathan MacKinnon told ESPN, “is one of the best in the world now -- at 17.”

“Great player. Great person,” Davidson told reporters in Nashville on Tuesday. “Everyone’s seen how he’s handled himself in the lead up to this draft. It’s obviously a lot of attention, but he’s shown a maturity beyond his years.”

Perhaps it’s unreasonable to put Bedard’s name in the same sentence as MJ, Sweetness and four Hawks legends.

Shouldn’t we at least see what this kid can do against the best in the world first?

Perhaps.

But there are just too many experts who agree Bedard will immediately become a dominant force.

So what should we expect this season? My guess is Bedard will post the same type of eye-popping numbers Sidney Crosby, Kane, Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews did when they were rookies.

•Crosby scored 39 goals and dished out 63 assists for an undermanned Penguins squad that went 22-46-14.

•Kane scored 21 times and had 51 assists on an up-and-coming Hawks team that just missed the postseason at 40-34-8.

•McDavid sat out 37 games of the 2015-16 campaign with an injury but finished with 16 goals and 32 assists for the 31-43-8 Oilers.

•Matthews (40G, 29A) was the only one who led his team to a playoff berth as Toronto went 40-27-15.

So assuming Bedard stays healthy, we can expect 35-40 goals and 40-plus assists.

And as the years go by, we should see 100-plus point campaigns that help produce winning seasons, deep playoff runs and -- possibly -- another dominant era for the Hawks.

It’s no wonder so many fans made the pilgrimage to Nashville and hundreds more joined a watch party at Chicago’s Salt Shed to take in the festivities with franchise icons Denis Savard and Steve Larmer.